The Supernatural Aspect of Literature
Literature forms one of the most expressive media of communicating elements of the contemporary human; this is due to its manifestation in various forms of art such as films, books, and music. The written word expresses the beauty of nature and atrocities faced by humans succinctly through its numerous genres such as poetry, prose narratives and long fiction depicted by novels. However, people have ignored various aspects of the art for artistic styles that express contemporary elements such as romance and philosophy. One of the most overlooked genres is spiritual literature due to its integration in the mainstream literature genre. People have also ignored the potential of writing in explaining psychology and factors that contribute to a decline in mental health. Therefore, it is important to evaluate works of literature that express aspects of psychology and elements of weirdness in contemporary society.
The essay thus carries an analytical evaluation of works by Edgar Allan Poe; it specifically evaluates the narratives, ‘The Black Cat’ and ‘The Tell Tale Heart’. The purpose of this evaluation is to reveal how works by one author explore certain aspects and attitudes in society. Additionally, it compares these prose narratives to the poem, ‘I Heard A Fly When I Died’, and this comparison helps to illuminate the aspect of the supernatural in various genres of literature.
The inherent characteristic of literature is its ability to outlive the author. Writing works are often durable and find relevance long after the author has passed. However, the ability of literature to predict future issues is often missed as people concentrate in understanding the society in which the authors lived while composing their works. Such is the case of Edgar’s work where people ignored that Edgar predicted the concepts of psychoanalysis, which were later utilized by Freud Sigmund in the study of human ego. Most of Edgar’s narratives begin with the narrator trying to ascertain his sanity to the audience; this is the case in the story ‘the tale tells heart.’ The narrator starts with verifying his sanity; he also indicates that the public would prefer him mad. The narrator’s proof of sanity is in the fact that he can hear things as is evident by his words “madmen feel nothing” (Poe, 11). Additionally, in the black cat, the narrator begins by stating a record of his mental health and love for animal pets.
However, the ensuing actions of these characters prove a state of unstable mental health. In the ‘Tell Tale Heart’, the narrator kills the old man despite his love for him, while in ‘The Black Cat’ the main character murders his favorite cat Pluto and eventually his wife. In these instances, Poe manages to portray signs of mental instability as described by most Psychiatrists. He indicates nervousness and the ability to hear sounds as signs of the unstable psychological state. The Tell-Tale Heart succinctly demonstrates these indications in the narrator by declaring that he was particularly keen on little sounds such as the heartbeat of the old man. Dickson in the poem echoes these sentiments ‘I heard a fly when I died”. As she claims that she had the capability of listening to a fly on her deathbed, Emily astutely states that mental inability results in the perception of sounds that can disturb an individual in the most critical times (Birtwhistle 46). On the other hand, ‘The Black Cat’, indicates irritation and constant mood swings as a sign of mental illness.
Moreover, both “The Tell-Tale Cat’ and `The Black Cat’ summaries numerous causes of mental instability. In ‘The Black Cat’ the narrator cites his alcoholism as the primary reason for his constant mood swings and irritation. Poe states that their relationship grew. However, it was deterred by his intemperance, which gradually altered his personality, whereas in the ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’ the reader deciphers causes of psychological disorder from the conflicting emotions raging within him (Hammond, 54). The main characters in these stories exhibit different states of emotion; they ascertain their love for the victims of their atrocities while at the same time hinting at a raging hatred for the similar themes of their love. The speaker in the ‘Tells Tale Heart’ astutely expresses his love for the old man but confesses his abhorrence for the guy’s pale eye, “I loved the old man. He had never wronged me. I think it was his eye. Yes, it was this!”(Poe, 14). However, in the “Black Cat,” the narrator came to loathe his cat due to its cunning behavior, he is more inflated with rage when the cat begins to avoid him after an episode of extreme violence.
Conflicting emotions of hatred and love were later explored by Freud Sigmund to explain the concepts of mental diseases in his theory. Freud also identified drug use as a primary causative for mental instability (Hammond, 58). One, therefore, notes the striking deductions of psychoanalysis that were borrowed from Poe’s works. Poe’s work also explores the characteristic of self-confidence as a factor of mental instability. In both works the narrators try to justify their ego by alluding to the level of sanity.
A striking similarity between these works is evident due to their allusion of the supernatural. The weirdness of the ‘The Black Cat” occurs when the narrator hints at the existence of another black cat similar to Pluto. Furthermore, it is realistically impossible for the cat to survive long days in the wall without the narrator noticing. On the other hand, ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’ alludes to the supernatural by indicating that the narrator was deaf to the old man’s shrieks, yet he fathomed the old man’s heart beating. However, Dickson succeeds more in elaborating supernatural weirdness by indicating that she could hear a fly buzz on her deathbed. Dickson’s statements are extremely weird since the deathbed is considered a very critical situation where one’s consciousness is lost to their surroundings, thus by hearing the buzz of a fly that is superbly out of the ordinary.
The three works are also similar in the utilization of symbolism to depict concealed aspects of the human nature and attitudes of the authors towards the condition of insanity. In both the narratives, the authors use animals to portray a sense of inhumanity associated with lunatics. ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’ utilizes the culture to illustrate the condition of the old man’s eye and to associate it to evil (Poe, 23). On the other hand, Poe uses the black cat Pluto to symbolize the evil underworld related to the cats in the human understanding of the mystery. In various contexts and cultures, black cats are used as an omen of evil. The relationship between black cats and evil profoundly alluded to in this narrative, for instance, the murder of Pluto precedes the conflagration of the narrator’s house. Additionally, the second black cat precludes the killing of the narrator’s wife; the narrator terms the cat as having seduced him to commit murder. On the other hand, Dickson uses the fly to depict an extraordinary condition associated with death; it is important to note that flies are also used as a symbol for evil.
Similarly, the stories utilize the eye as a key symbol of indicating human identity and enlightenment. In the poem, the persona states that she sees the fly until she seizes to see. Additionally, Poe utilizes the aspect of sight as a way of indicating human identity. In the story, ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’ the old man’s heart is used as an element of his personality that cannot be separated from the person. Efforts of the narrator to separate the eye from the human identity lead to his commitment of a grotesque atrocity against the old man. On the other hand, when the narrator in the black cat dismembers the Pluto’s eye, it leads to disfiguration of the cat’s appearance to an ominous creature that provokes murderous feelings from the narrator. The cat instinctively withdraws from the narrator; this alludes to the fact that once someone has a sense of identity and belonging when removed, they tend to change in character.
The eye can also be used to clarify the aspect of possession of supernatural knowledge. In the story, “The Tell-Tale Heart’, the narrator hates the Oldman’s pale eye, he says that its imploring led him to believe that the man had a canal knowledge of his evil intent. We deduce this from the lack of ability to distinguish between his affiliations to a subject and the convictions of others. The inability is evident when the man calls the law-enforcement officers villains while in reality he was the villain for committing murder (Poe, 17). In the same way, it is possible that the narrator misunderstood his evil attitude and attributed the demons in him to the old man’s eye while in reality he was the evil one. The same knowledge of the supernatural occurs in the story, ‘The black cat’ one may tend to believe that the appearance of the second cat occurs from the narrator’s fanaticism. The kind of exceptional knowledge in these stories is evident in the poem, where the persona conjures an image of a fly that grows bigger and bigger. One should take note of the fact that it is impossible to identify objects precisely in such a situation. Therefore, through utilization of the eye and sight as a symbol, the authors succeed in incorporating an aspect of weirdness in their works.
However, Poe’s and Dickson’s work differ on the chosen genre of presentation. Dickinson prefers the presentation of her work in poetry while Edgar utilizes the prose form of short stories. The difference in style brings discrepancies in the linguistic devices employed to elaborate the themes of the two forms of art. The poem uses linguistic devices such as assonance and rhyme to depict the persona’s attitude while the narrative utilizes vivid description. The vivid descriptions enable adornment of the narrators’ attitude and sanity. However, the difference in genre and linguistic devices elaborates the utilization of supernatural beliefs in literature. As mentioned earlier, supernatural literature fails to realize full recognition due to its integration in mainstream literature. The works by these two authors succinctly ascertain this fact as critical evaluation reveals instances of the supernatural quietly superimposed in famous works of literature such as poems and short stories.
Literature work is quite popular due to its ability to express beauty and capture vivid actions in both the past and the present. However, numerous scholars have failed to recognize the element of literature that captures occurrences in the future; this occurs through prediction of the future in subtle ways in diverse genres of literature. Additionally, people study literature as a way of learning different elements of their contemporary lives such as romance and philosophy. Therefore, concentration on how literature affects the future and its explanation of human mental states receives minimal attention. One of the authors who substantially predicted the future was Edgar Poe, he explored the aspects of being thought long before Freud Sigmund coined his theory on the same. His works analyze how the lunatics struggle with their ego and how the inner conflict tends to lead to extreme atrocities. On the other hand, Dickson expresses how little disturbance constitutes the mental instability of an individual even in the most crucial situations such as the deathbed. Analytical review of these works reveals an extraordinary aspect that is quite common in contemporary human beliefs. Therefore, a simultaneous study of the two authors shows how literature expresses our beliefs in the supernatural and extraordinary occurrences. The two others also succeed in showing factors of psychoanalysis that lead to human insanity.
- Birtwhistle, John. “I heard a fly buzz when I died.” BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care 5.2 (2015): 214-214. Print.
- Poe, Edgar A. “The Tell-Tale Heart.” Fifteen Prose Pieces (1964): 109-116. Print.
- Hammond, John R. An Edgar Allan Poe companion: a guide to the short stories, romances and essays. Springer, 2016.
- Poe, Edgar Allan. The Letters of Edgar Allan Poe. Vol. 2. Gordian Press, 1966.
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