This week's Poe Fridays selection is the short story, Berenice. Boy, was this a return to the Poe we know and love - gruesome, atmospheric, despairing.
Egaeus, the narrator, lives in a creepy house with his cousin, Berenice. Egaeus is studious, Berenice is beautiful, and they are to be married. Berenice is afflicted with some unnamed wasting disease, and Egaeus is prone to obsessive-compulsive disorder. One day, he becomes obsessed with her teeth, and obsessed, and obsessed, and obsessed. Then, strangely, his servant tells his Berenice has died. Of course, Egaeus soon finds a small box, with dental equipment, and 32 tiny white "ivory-looking substances".....
Much is familiar about this story - a narrator with a mental illness, a creepy old house, someone getting buried alive, a woman whose only purpose is to be beautiful and die. Apparently, when the story was first published, magazine readers were in such an uproar about its violence that Poe eventually purged four paragraphs. I wasn't able to find the complete story, but I would certainly be interested to read those paragraphs. Since most of the actual violence is implied, it is a tribute to Poe's mastery of his craft that this story could have been so shocking.
Next week we will be reading the (hopefully happy?!?) poem, To My Mother. Poe Fridays is hosted by Kristen at WeBeReading.