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ClassicsOnline Home » POE, E.A.: Tales of Mystery and Imagination (Unabridged)
The horrors of the Spanish Inquisition, with its dungeon of death, and the overhanging gloom on the House of Usher demonstrate unforgettably the unique imagination of Edgar Allan Poe. Unerringly, he touches upon some of our greatest nightmares—premature burial, ghostly transformation and words from beyond the grave. Written in the 1840s, they have retained their power to shock and frighten even now.
The Fall of the
House of Usher
The Pit and
& Other Tales of
Mystery and Imagination
Mystery and crime stories are among the most popular forms
of fiction today, and the popularity of the genre is no mystery to millions of
readers – and listeners – worldwide. Although his source of happiness was
writing poetry, Edgar Allan Poe also raised the short story to an art form. His
dark, gothic tales of mystery and imagination had heavy influence on the modern
thriller. This exceptional selection of works illustrates why many consider
Edgar Allan Poe to be the father of the modern mystery.
The early years of the 1840s were the high point of Poe’s
life. He produced a series of fine macabre and suspenseful stories that have
retained their power to shock and frighten even today.
Among the 10 selections contained in this collection is The
Fall of the House of Usher (1839), a detailed, symbolic account of the
derangement and dissipation of an individual’s personality.
While listening to The Tell-Tale Heart (1843), one must be
reminded not to take horror in Poe too autobiographically. The narrator’s “nervousness”
is a frequently used device of Poe to establish tone and plausibility through
heightened states of consciousness.
In writing The Masque of the Red Death (1842), Poe would
have considered such historical examples as the Black Death or the bubonic
plague of the Middle Ages as well as the cholera epidemics that ravaged
Philadelphia in the 1790’s and Baltimore in his own lifetime. However, in this
story, the plague takes the unusual form of a red death rather than a black one
so that blood, the very substance of life, now becomes the mark of death.
The Cask of Amontillado (1846), is a classic example of the
use of an unreliable narrator. Montresor tells his tale of revenge smugly, as
he invites the listener to applaud his cleverness. By telling the story from
Montresor’s point of view, Poe forces us to look into the inner workings of a
The Black Cat (1843), serves as a reminder for all of us:
The capacity for violence and horror lies within each of us, no matter how
docile and humane our dispositions might appear.
Also included are The Pit and the Pendulum (1842), Ligeia
(1838), The Premature Burial (1844) and The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar
Although a collection of short stories, it would be remiss
to not include The Raven (1845). First published under a pseudonym and a symbol
of “mournful and never-ending remembrance”, The Raven is Poe’s best-known poem
and one of the most famous works in American literature.
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