Essay Edgar Allan Poe and Insanity

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Pages: 14

Edgar Allan Poe and Insanity Edgar Allan Poe shows how subconscious fears and guilt can lead to insanity through the irrational behaviors shown by the narrators in “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Black Cat”. Both narrators have committed a crime due to their insanity in an attempt to relieve themselves from their fear and guilt, but instead ultimately cause their further decline of mental stability. Edgar Allan Poe was orphaned at an early age, later being adopted by John Allan. In his early adulthood, he developed malignant habits of alcoholism and debt. During his time, activists in the temperance movement blamed alcohol for corruptions such as violence and the destruction of family life. People during this time also had a …show more content…
The narrator was seized by “a new anxiety” that “the sound would be heard by a neighbor!” (Poe, “Tell-Tale” 447). He is referring to the ticking sound of the old man’s heartbeat that he can’t seem to escape. The beating of the old mans heart “increased [his] fury”, for every beat, or tick sound from a clock was a moment of time that brings one close to death (May).
The narrator in “The Black Cat” also has subconscious fears of his victims. He is plagued by anxiety, but mistakenly associates that anxious feeling with an object, as we do with fear. He believes he can escape his fear by destroying the object, or the cats in his case (Badenhausen). After his first crime of cutting out Pluto’s eye, he feels a “sentiment half of horror, half of remorse”, and after having hanged that same cat and seeing its shadow on the wall of his burnt house, he feels “wonder and…terror” (Badenhausen). The narrator thinks that his fear will be relieved after harming the cat, but instead it just augments his horror.
After leaving his destroyed house, he and his wife find another cat that looks just like Pluto, except that it has a white patch of fur on its chest. This cat frightens the narrator even more because “like Pluto, it also had been deprived of one of its eyes” (Poe, “Black” 51). At first the patch of white fur on the cat’s chest did not appear to have any definite shape, but “it was now the representation of an object that