Edgar Allen Poe Thematic Analysis

In many of his short stories, Edgar Allan Poe uses a single eye as a symbol.

The narrators in his stories often experience an intense abomination towards the eye of a particular character. Usually the object of pursuit, the eye ignites a violent reaction within the narrator who feels the need to destroy it. The symbol of a single eye is identified several times throughout Poe’s literature and each time provides a deeper insight into his characters. The symbolization of the eye leads to the reveal of the psyche and soul, an exposure that leaves Poe’s characters feeling uncomfortable and revealed.In “The Black Cat” and “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe, eyes are used as symbols to identify that the eyes are the windows to the soul. In “The Black Cat” by Edgar Allan Poe, the narrator acts violently towards his cat for no particular reason.

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Although the narrator doesn’t state why, he always seems to be drawn to the cat’s eye in a negative way. The first incident in which the narrator abuses the cat is when it doesn’t react to his rage and looks into his eyes without fear. The narrator is extremely disturbed by the cat’s presence and deliberately tries to cut out its eye. I fancied that the cat avoided my presence…I took from my waist-coat pocket a penknife, opened it, grasped the poor beast by the throat, and deliberately cut one of its eyes from the socket! ” (Poe 13). The narrator’s intention of violence is solely because of the cat’s eye, and ridding himself of it is his only desire. The fact that the narrator has such a reaction towards the eye shows that he feels a great deal of vexation and uneasiness towards it.

When the cat looks him in the eye, it triggers a feeling of vulnerability within the narrator.He hates that the cat is able to look him in the eyes, causing him to feel like the cat can see “through” him. Poe identifies the theme that the eyes are the windows to the soul because the cat had been able to look into the narrator’s own eyes and into his “soul”. Therefore, he feels like the cat has power over him and that his soul is unguarded, so he must cut the cat’s eye out in order to be free. Poe identifies a similar theme using the eye as a symbol in “The Tell-Tale Heart”. The narrator of the story has an incredible desire to kill an innocent man for no reason other than his eye.

The narrator never stated why the old man’s eye made him so uneasy, only describing his immense hatred towards it. “Object there was none. Passion there was none. I loved the old man. He had never wronged me…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” (Poe 138).

When the eye was direct towards him, the narrator felt disturbed and erotic. He identified the eye as “evil”, bringing him great distress that was too significant for him to bear. The eye only vexed the narrator when it was looking directly in his own.He never felt upset towards the eye when it was not directed at him, but only when it was fixed in his own eyes. “It was open – wide, wide open – and I grew furious as I glazed upon it.

I saw it with perfect distinctness – all a dull blue, with a hideous veil over it that chilled the very marrow in my bones…” (Poe 14). Not only did the narrator fear the eye, but it also ignited a zealous sensation of anger within him. He had such an intense reaction because the eye of the old man is able to expose the narrator, leaving him feeling vulnerable and uncovered.He grows angry by this and hates the feeling of exposure. He calls the eye evil because he feels it is able to see through him, or see through the “window to his soul”. With this distraught feeling of vulnerability, the narrator feels he has to kill the man so he wouldn’t feel unguarded any longer.

In his short stories “The Black Cat” and “The Tell-Tale Heart”, Edgar Allan Poe uses eyes as symbols to identify that eyes are the windows to the soul. The narrators in his stories regularly feel resentment towards the eye of a certain character, resulting from their vulnerability and unwanted exposure.His narrators feel as though the eyes can see through them and into their soul, provoking extreme discomfort. Poe’s narrators react violently and unreasonably towards the eye, identifying their unwillingness to let anybody see through them. His stories parallel with the idea that eyes are the windows to the soul because whenever a character looks into the eyes of the narrator, he/she reacts in an unreasonable, violent way that can only be derived from a feeling of vulnerability and insecurity.