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.