Posted in Short Stories

Edgar Allan Poe: The Tell-Tale Heart

Deal Me In 2020 – Week 25

I think it was his eye! yes, it was this! One of his eyes resembled that of a vulture – a pale blue eye, with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold…

Immediatley, Edgar Allan Poe pulls his reader in to sympathize with his protagonist narrator in “The Tell-Tale Heart”. The narrator wants to kill an old man and why wouldn’t he want to kill him? He has a weird eye.

Death and dismemberment ensue in the kind of gruesomeness for which Poe is known.

Even though I was rooting for him, the narrator doesn’t get away with everything due to a different body part of the old man . I wanted to tell the narrator just to be quiet that the noise is all in his head and that the police don’t hear it.

Too bad, though, it didn’t work.

After reading this, I wonder why I haven’t posted about more of Poe’s work on my blog. I have quite a few of his works on my shelf. This one is included in The Oxford Book of American Short Stories edited by Joyce Carol Oates. Incidentally, in her introduction to this story, Oates, who has a knack for gruesomeness herself, calls Poe a genius. I couldn’t agree more.

I read this when I selected the Seven of Spades for Week 25 of my Deal Me In short story project. Check out my Deal Me In 2020 list here. Deal Me In is hosted by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.


Posted in Short Stories

Nathaniel Hawthorne: Young Goodman Brown

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Week 39 of my Deal Me In 2014 short story project brings me to my final Nathaniel Hawthorne story “Young Goodman Brown”.  My Deal Me In 2014 list can be seen here.  DMI is sponsored by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.

I think this is another story that is fairly well-known but I happened to have not read until now.  I have found Hawthorne almost as intriguing this year as Herman Melville.  Both authors are stalwarts of Nineteenth Century American Literature.  To make still another comparison, I’ve been surprised at how downright scary Hawthorne’s stories can be – just as scary as Edgar Allan Poe, another of Hawthorne’s American contemporaries.

Young Goodman Brown says goodbye to his new wife, Faith, to embark on a journey in which the reader (and Faith, I think) never gets the full details as to the reason.  The reader gets the distinct impression that less than noble intentions are behind the journey.  Along the way, Brown meets up with an older man.  Is this man behind the purpose of his travels or is he unexpected?  The reader isn’t sure.  It doesn’t take long to realize that the older man is most likely the Devil himself.  Through eerie descriptions Goodman and the Devil travel through the woods.  The Devil seems to take pleasure in pointing out how many of Goodman Brown’s church people are secretly working for him.  Ultimately, Goodman gets the impression that even his wife, Faith (great name!), might be in cahoots with his travel companion.


The story leaves many questions.  Is this all a dream of Goodman Brown or is it real?  Hypocrisy of religious people seems to play a prominent role in Hawthorne’s stories.  However, Young Goodman Brown doesn’t seem to be completely pure (or puritan) in spite of his name (another good one!).  The possible change in Faith is what makes me think the story is more dream than real.  If any character is pure, it would be her.  But if this is a dream, it’s a dream that has a drastic effect on the rest of Young Goodman Brown’s life.

In this story, as in all of Hawthorne’s stories I’ve read, I love the way he describes the rugged colonial Massachusetts landscape.  Letting him take me back to a younger country with forests and footpaths, scary though they may be, will make me continue to visit and revisit Hawthorne’s writing.

Posted in Short Stories

“The Black Cat” by Edgar Allan Poe

“The Black Cat” by Edgar Allan Poe is a truly scary story – and gruesome, too.  I shouldn’t be surprised as I’ve read other short stories by Poe – but even for a Poe story, it was shocking.  At the beginning, the narrator describes the story he’s going to tell as a “series of mere household events.”  This could perhaps be the epitome of understatement.

One of the brilliant aspects of the story revolves around the title and the role of the black cats.  I kept waiting for the cats to speak like Linda Blair in The Exorcist or to at least spin their heads all the way around.  For the most part, the cats just remained cats – with only a slight implication that they may have more than just feline ambitions in their relationship with their master (the narrator).  This makes the actions of the narrator that much more surprising and shocking…and just downright scary.

With this kind of story, it’s difficult to say too much without giving away the best (or scariest) parts.  I still consider “The Cask of Amontillado” my favorite Poe story and from a literary standpoint, it probably outranks “The Black Cat”; however, “The Black Cat” has become a new Halloween favorite.

Posted in Essays

When I Was A Child I Read Books

I finished Marilynne Robinson’s collection of essays When I Was A Child I Read Books.  I find her thought process fascinating.  I end up having to read her essays slowly so that I can think about all that she says.

Marilynne Robinson

One aspect that I appreciate about her writing is that she does not “pigeon-hole” herself into any specific political or ideological category.   She does not hide the fact that she embraces the Christian faith and takes on Victor J. Stenger’s The New Atheism in a critical debate.  At the same time, many of her ideas about generosity and aleviating poverty could put her on the liberal side of politics.

Her knowledge of science, religion, philosophy, literature and history is amazing.  She has a fondness for sixteenth century theologian John Calvin, old church hymns, and Edgar Allan Poe:

Edgar Allan Poe began to matter to me in what might fairly be called my childhood, my early adolescence.  I more than forgave him his febrile imagination.  In fact I loved the dark gorgeousness of his mind, and the utter, quite palpable, almost hallucinatory loneliness of it.  His elegance and learnedness were his defenses, ironic, conscious, and pure for that reason.  I have always thought of him as a man waiting out the endless night of his life with a book in his hand, some quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore, noting the smell and feel of the leather binding, the pretty trace of gilding on the spine, almost too moved by the gratuitous humanity of the thing to open it and put himself in the power of whatever old music still lived in it.  Runes and rhymes, labials and sibilants, trying the sound of them under his breath, while the long hours passed.  I read everything I could find of his, at some point even the essay – or as he would have it, the poem- called Eureka.

I’m now going to have to read this poem by Poe.