Seeing Poe’s Struggle with Alcoholism

In: English and Literature

Submitted By andalou
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Seeing Poe’s Struggle with Alcoholism through his Stories “The Cask of Amontillado” and “The Black Cat”
Jen Andalou

Edgar Allen Poe’s stories “The Black Cat” and “The Cask of Amontillado” are among his most popular. Both of these stories can be read on several different levels causing everyone who reads them to come up with a totally different interpretations, yet none of the interpretations I have read seem satisfying. The two stories at first seem simple enough, with “The Black Cat” reading as a darker version of “The Telltale Heart”, this time with the conscience given a physical form, and “The Cask of Amontillado” as a chilling tale of revenge exacted told as a deathbed confession. Yet these simple interpretations leave too many questions. Many reviewers unfairly single Poe’s works out as coming directly from his subconscious, ignoring not only how carefully Poe chose his words and phrases but also the sources that inspired the stories (E A Poe Society,
“Autobiography”). That being said, I think Poe did deliberately use his stories as a kind of self-therapy thus revealing at least a little about himself. A large constant in Poe’s life was his fight with alcohol, which made itself known in his writing in many ways.
The main theme of Edgar Allen Poe’s stories “The Black Cat” and “The Cask of
Amontillado” centers on the narrators’ attempts to wall off, or suppress, his alcoholism, with the narrator succeeding over alcoholism in “The Cask of Amontillado” while the narrator of “The Black Cat” succumbs to alcohol and is destroyed. As a last step I will show that the reason these two stories came to such different conclusions is mirrored in
Poe’s attempts to suppress his own alcoholism during the periods of time in which each of these stories was written.

The use of alcohol is very prominent in Poe’s story “The Black Cat” which can be read…...

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