Saturday, March 28, 2009

Poe Friday (on Saturday)

This week we read the very short (3 pages!) story, The Sphinx. If you are unfamiliar with the story, you can read the full text here.

In this short tale, an unnamed narrator travels to the country to visit a relative in order to escape a cholera outbreak in New York City. The narrator is obsessed with the epidemic, getting news each day that another friend or relative has died from the disease. He quickly becomes paranoid. One day, he looks out the window and sees a gigantic monster. He fears he is going crazy, but when he sees the monster a second time, he feels he has to tell his relative, who then tries to deduce the origin of this horrible monster.

This is another story about an obsession with death. Since it was written shortly before the death of Poe's wife, Virginia, I would have to imagine that many of the feelings of the narrator were mirrors of Poe's own inner turmoil. I noticed a similarity between the narrator in this story and Roderick from "The Fall of the House of Usher" - both had unreasonable fears, and both let their fears practically consume them.

Because this story was SO short, I didn't feel like Poe had as much opportunity to set his mood, as he does so successfully in some other stories. I never quite felt like I was "in" this story, unlike other stories which grabbed me immediately. I get the feeling this was something he wrote quickly and sent off, just so he could get some money to pay the bills - understandable, since making a living as a writer was tenuous at best at this time.

Next week we will be reading The Cask of Amontillado. Poe Friday is hosted by Kristen at WeBeReading.


Kristen M. said...

I didn't think about the financial aspect but he probably WAS just dashing off stories to try and get some money ... this one certainly felt awkward and short. It also felt like it was written by someone who wasn't sure if he was losing his own mind at the time ... you just feel terribly bad for Poe sometimes!

The Book Resort said...

He must of needed a few in his coffer.

Edward Yablonsky said...

I have read Poe and consider this author to be quite evocative of nervous states of mind where the realities the mind conjures are expressive of fears of the character. The same conjurations appear in the Tell tale Heart where no outward correspondence to the inward reality of the mind is present. though the level of reality the mind conjures is acute.