28 February 2014
Realms of Darkness
A decaying mansion, a bridge haunted by a headless horseman, a mysterious pit of death and a forest, home to the devil. These daunting elements appeared in the workings of Washington Irving and Edgar Allen Poe, two authors known for their gothic short stories. Irving and Poe had the ability to bring readers to the edge of their seats by creating tales of mystery and suspense that explored the darkest corners of the human mind. To achieve this, Irving and Poe generously incorporated madness, evil and violence, three characteristics of the Realms of Darkness era, into their writing.Further developing themes of the Realms of Darkness era, Irving and Poe integrated madness into their works. In “The Devil and Tom Walker,” a short story by Washington Irving, madness lies with Tom Walker and his wife. Entranced by the devil’s seductive ways, Tom Walker and his wife, both extremely miserly people, attempted to bargain with the devil to obtain a life supply of riches. Clearly, both are driven by madness, as no sane person would make an effort to deal with the devil. In “The Fall of the House of Usher,” Poe incorporates madness into Roderick Usher, the proprietor of the decaying mansion, who is tormented by his own fear and overcome by mental illness throughout the story.
In addition to madness, Irving and Poe also use violence to create their unnerving short stories. For example, Irving includes violence in the climax of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” when the infamous Headless Horseman knocks Ichabod Crane, the protagonist, off his horse with a pumpkin. Similarly, Poe integrates violence in “The Pit and the Pendulum” by incorporating a mysterious pit of death and a terrifying pendulum into the prisoner’s cell. Adding these elements of violence into their short stories, Irving and