How Are Visions Portrayed Within Edgar Allen Poe And Stephen Kings Work
INTRODUCTION Gothic literature is a combination of fiction, horror, and Romanticism.
It originated in the mid-late 1700’s, when Horace Walpole created his book ‘The Castle Of Otrantro’. After this, very many people began to imitate his style of work. Over the course of almost 300 years, it has developed into a more mental state of horror, rather than it being gruesome with physical things. Edgar Allen Poe is a very famous poet who played a big role in the horror literature movement, and Stephen King has been considered the king of horror since he began writing. They’re both very popular writers within Gothic literature. Gothic literature is a subsection of horror and within Gothic literature, it has a lot of categories that would make a piece of writing classify under the genre of “Gothic”.
This essay will be more focused on the elements that make up Gothic literature, specifically visions. Gothic literature is relevant to the writing culture because it uses a realistic type of basis that also does involve some sort of discussion about individualism. It’s made up of very different elements such as: architecture, setting, supernatural overwrought emotion, metonymy of gloom and horror, curses of prophecies, damsels in distress, heroes, villain/tyrant, romance, and intense emotions. This is how Gothic literature began, but it soon developed into a more gruesome genre that deals with gloomy and dark settings and characters that are insane or are in the midst of going insane. Visions are a key element to gothic literature because it shows what the character is going through and how they’re feeling through specific things and it gives readers an inside look of how the character(s) is dealing with what is happening to them at that certain time.
Within Edgar Allen Poe’s work, visions are portrayed as something you see right in front of you, which leads you to going insane. Specifically in his poem The Raven, in which, a man sees a raven and it leads him into insanity. Within Stephen King’s work, visions are portrayed as hallucinations, which make you go insane, specifically his book Insomnia, in which, a man has insomnia and deals with a lot of hallucinations. This essay will investigate in depth of how Edgar Allen Poe and Stephen King show the way they portray visions within their works and how it has changed from a more physical gateway to insanity to a mental gateway to insanity. Both King and Poe have dealt with drug abuse in their life times as writers, which also helps the reader to see the accuracy of the hallucinations and how it must have really felt for the characters.
The basis of this extended essay is to try an answer the question: how are visions portrayed within Edgar Allen Poe and Stephen King’s work? Visions are important to gothic literature because it shows the depths of the human mind and how our subconscious is a very dangerous thing. It helps the reader see how far humans can go before they forget the difference between reality and delusion. THEMATIC CONSIDERATION The relevance that gothic literature has to the writing culture is that it brings a new sense of reality to the human mind. It makes people see the depths of the evil things humans are capable of doing. It makes people face reality in a very dark way.
The reason why visions are so important to gothic literature is because everybody has visions, whether it’s in their dreams or because they’re seeing something that makes them act like that or they’re on hallucinogens that cause them to see things. The works of literature really help the reader have a look into the human mind/characters mind and see how different the visions are within the different characters that are being portrayed in their works. In Edgar Allen Poe and Stephen King’s case, they were able describe their visions in their writing quite well because they are both heavy drug users and have had hallucinations while being under the influence. The reason why their drug abuse is mentioned is because Poe used to abuse opium and that causes a lot of hallucinations that can cause people to go insane or even lead to their death. King began abusing alcohol and various drugs since he was 16 years old. Visions are not only important to the readers, they are also important in the case of King’s and Poe’s work, but to the authors themselves because they went through the struggle of having to deal with their hallucinations/visions.
Other people who use visions may use it as Edgar Allen Poe does in The Raven. The way Poe portrays visions is by making the character see a certain thing that makes the character go insane. It’s not necessarily a hallucination, but it does cause the character to go insane to the point where the reader is utterly confused or is questioning the characters intentions. There are various methods to collect the knowledge of how visions are portrayed in both of their works. You can read both of the written pieces or parts of the pieces, or you can simply find two separate articles that discuss visions in both of the works.
The different ways that that this can be researched is by reading the book, Insomnia, itself and highlighting the different places where you see Ralph having the hallucinations, and the same goes with The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe where his character is having his visions. There are different ways a person can research gothic literature itself. There are very many different authors from Walpole, to Lovecraft, to Stine. Researchers can read through the books and reflect on what other researchers have said about gothic literature and how the craft has developed over the years. But the researcher can go too far into a piece of literature and realise that it’s romanticism because it’s more focused on how the person is inspired and it emphasises subjectivity, then it’s a waste of time because even though Romanticism is part of Gothic literature it’s completely different and it won’t help anyone in answering the main question of this essay.
CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT/LITERATURE REVIEW Visions have a very big role in both Edgar Allen Poe’s and Stephen King’s work, specifically, in Poe’s ‘The Raven’ and in King’s ‘Insomnia’. In The Raven, there is a person who is taking a nap and a raven comes tapping at their door. The person at first thinks that a guest is coming to visit them, but when they get to the door, they don’t see anyone there, so they decide to go back to sleep, not seeing the raven. After a while the tapping comes back so the person gets up to see what it is this time and they finally see the raven. They begin to get irritated because all the person wanted to do was nap but the raven kept them awake.
The person yells and yells at the raven to make it go away, and at some point the person begins to hear the bird reply to them. After a little while longer, the person begins to go crazy because they want to sleep but they can’t because the raven keeps tapping at the door. At some point the person starts to go insane and yell at the bird: “‘Prophet!’ said I, ‘thing of evil! – Prophet still, if bird or devil’…” (Poe. 4). From this line, we can see the person yelling at the raven calling it evil and speaking to it as if it is human (the raven) and it can hear/understand him.
This pushes the reader to see that the “vision” here is the raven that the person is seeing. This “vision” causes the person to start being frantic and eventually become insane. The bird even responds to the man at one point and says “Nevermore” (Poe. 3), which makes the reader see how much more insane the person is becoming through his physical siting of the bird.Edgar Allen Poe is obviously known for his alcohol and drug abuse, so this comes into play about how the person who is going insane is going insane over a raven.
(http://www.enotes.com/homework-help/what-parallels-can-drawn-concerning-raven-edgar-373849). Most people would obviously shoo it away or throw something at it, but the person in this literature work is yelling at the bird, but not attempting to shoo it or try and get it to go away. The Raven has been personified and the person is looking at it as if it’s a person you can just yell at until it flies away.
The reason why Poe uses a raven rather than a different bird is because seeing a raven would often mean that the person is feeling betrayed, disharmony, misfortune, and/or has experienced a death. (http://www.signology.org/bird-symbol/raven-symbol.htm) The Raven was based off of Edgar Allen Poe’s wife (Lenore) who was sick at the time with a disease that later led to her death. (http://www.
enotes.com/homework-help/what-parallels-can-drawn-concerning-raven-edgar-373849). As the poem develops, it can be seen why the raven was used to represent the pain and the anger that Poe was obviously feeling during the time. In King’s ‘Insomnia’, visions are portrayed in a different way. In Insomnia by Stephen King, the story follows a retired widower named Ralph Roberts who suffers from insomnia.
The way insomnia is related to visions is that, since the human mind doesn’t get enough sleep, it begins to see things that aren’t there and it tricks the mind into thinking that the things that it’s seeing are real. The less sleep a person has had, the more likely they are to begin to imagine things that aren’t there, and things in their subconscious begin to appear in front of them. As his insomnia gets worse, he begins to see invisible and intangible being, and also diminutive white-coated things that he called “little bald doctors”. He also discovers that his love, Lois Chasse, has the same condition and that their insomnia was induced by the little bald doctors to help them defeat agents of the Crimson King. Ralph and Lois name the two good doctors Clotho and Lachesis, and the third doctor is the bad doctor, who is called Atropos.
Ralph tells Atropos to stay out of their business and the doctors give him their word. Atropos has his revenge by showing him a glimpse of the future. A woman named Natalie Deepneau will die, and Ralph offers his own life in exchange for hers. Ralph then believes that Natalie’s father, Ed Deepneau, and his neighbour have fallen under control of the Crimson King. Ed attempts to crash a plane filled with explosives.
Ralph and Lois soon discover that the Crimson King was using Ed to kill a small boy named Patrick Danville. The reason for this is because Danville cannot be killed by anyone directly from the Random or the Purpose. But from time to time, there is a person who is born as ‘undesignated’ (aka a Blank Card or Joker) is up for grabs of either side. Deepneau happens to be the only person on Earth, which is why when they want to him to kill Danville. Ralph eventually defeats the king, crashes the plane into a parking lot, kills Deepneau, and spares Danville’s life, allowing him to fulfil his destiny. It ends with him dying in a car crash because he had to trade his life with Natalie’s, who has to die.
Within this fantastic work of literature, “visions” are portrayed as hallucinations, which are things you see, but aren’t really there (which is basically every element of the story except for him). The way “visions” affects Ralph, is that he’s already insane, not getting there. Due to Ralph’s insomnia, it shows the readers that he goes insane because of his lose of sleep, and that causes him to do very many things in his little fictional world. Through out the novel, we see King use various different literary devices to emphasise Ralph’s hallucinations. For example the Crimson King. The Crimson King is an allusion to Satan, and obviously Satan is the definition of Evil.
Ralph has to defeat the Crimson King who is obviously not a real figure, but within Ralph’s subconscious the king must be taken down in order to save the world. Visions here are a very key element in this piece of literature because the entire story is based off of hallucinations, which is what would be categorised as visions. Both of these pieces of literature have other gothic elements in them, but visions are more emphasised because it shows the reader how visions/hallucinations can lead a person to go insane, regardless of what king of vision/hallucination is could be. Even though it involves Romanticism, it’s not emphasised because it’s more focused around what is bringing the main characters in both of these pieces of literature down or causing their downfall. Romanticism is brought up because, often times, it gets confused or mixed in with Gothic literature.
Romanticism may definitely get confused in these pieces of literature because the pieces involve individualism and the characters deal with their emotions. Even though Romanticism is involved with Gothic literature, it’s not the same because Gothic literature has been developed into it’s own genre where as Romanticism was evolved over the years and is always apart of something bigger. DISCUSSION OF EVIDENCE The way ‘The Raven’ deals with gothic literature is that it is both fictional and would be considered horror for the time it was written, but it’s not fully emphasised with romanticism because it’s not focused on the inspiration or on how an individual is perceiving things differently to other people. It’s more focused on one characters mind and what they’re seeing and believing. Within The Raven, it pushes the reader to be more focused on how the raven that the person is seeing is really making them go insane and rather than it being inspirational, or showing how it differs from other people perception, it focuses solely on how the person feels and how the raven is pushing them to be insane. The vision of the raven is causing the character to lose his mind because it will not leave the main character alone.
If the reader doesn’t involve the opium use of Edgar Allen Poe, or if the reader does not know it, then they would see this as something peculiar, but of course, this is just how the bird is perceived, to be something evil and terrible. For example: “Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore, / Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted / On this home by horror haunted… tell me, I implore!” (Poe 4). Here, the character is telling the either it’s been sent by the Devil or a storm sent it that way, it’s showing unhappiness but is not intimidated by the horror that is haunting his (the characters) home.
It’s evil and terrible because if it’s not intimidated by horror that is haunting a home, then it’s not scared of anything human. The way ‘Insomnia’ deals with gothic literature is that it pushes the reader to see how Ralph’s mind is used against him to do things that aren’t very pleasant (i.e. having to die for Natalie, or having to crash the plan to save Patrick). It deals with how the visions that Ralph has, isn’t something both filled with horror and fictional.
And just like Edgar Allen Poe’s ‘The Raven’, it’s not emphasised on the romanticism part because of the same reasons. Even though they both reflect romanticism in the works to some extent, it’s still not surrounded by the characters internal thoughts and emotions. Even though both ‘The Raven’ and ‘Insomnia’ are dealing with the same element of gothic literature, it’s not particularly the same thing. Within ‘The Raven’, as stated earlier, the type of visions it deals with is something that a person sees that leads them to go insane, where in ‘Insomnia’, again as stated earlier, deals with the type of visions that are invisible and intangible. But a similarity is that they both go into the depths of horror and how a person’s mind can really push them to do drastic things when they’re going insane. This shows how gothic literature has developed over time.
Poe had his first piece of literary work published in 1809, and King has his first piece of literary work published in 1977, the shows how much it has changed. Poe’s visions and hallucinations were more physical because things like insomnia and LSD weren’t terms that existed during that time, or at least were not widely used/known, and so writers during that time would have their characters see something and be affected by that in their everyday life. In this day and age, King’s work shows visions/hallucinations in a more in depth way. Nowadays, people have a lot more and very many different things (such as experimental drugs) that make a person go insane. Psychologists have found multiple different types of insomnia that could affect a person’s day-to-day life.
(https://sleepfoundation.org/insomnia/content/what-are-different-types-insomnia). This helps writers more today because they have it easier in the sense that they could easily pick up an encyclopaedia or use the Internet to research the things that authors would like to put into their works of literature. Even though, this essay has been pushing on the fact that both Edgar Allen Poe and Stephen King aren’t moving onto Romanticism, they do at some point. And as previously mentioned it also pushes how they both use different forms of visions (Poe’s being physical, and King’s being mental). In every piece of literature, there are always thoughts and feelings of an individual and how they use those thoughts to do something with themselves, whether it’s good or bad.
In ‘Insomnia’, even though it’s more on visions and hallucinations, Ralph does have inner thoughts and feelings that push him to want to save Natalie and save Patrick. It’s simply because he wants to save the world. For example, “Crazy people are always sure of the crazy things they see and hear. That’s what makes them crazy, not the hallucinations themselves.” (King P. 201) This shows how Ralph does have inner feelings about what’s happening to him and how he has to figure out a way to save Natalie and Patrick.
Even though this was one of the voices that Ralph heard in his head, it’s still his subconscious who is speaking to him, and that means he is basically telling himself that he’s crazy because of the things he sees, not because of the things he hears. The language that is being shown in this line alone is how the doctor is telling Ralph that he isn’t crazy and it pushes the reader to see how King is showing visions through a mental illness that Ralph is going through. This is contradictory to the essay point because even this is a form of romanticism and that his mind is telling him that he can only go insane from something physical. In ‘The Raven’, the person who is seeing the raven and going insane has inner thoughts about how they want to get rid of the raven, but can’t. For example, “This I sat engages in guessing, but no syllable expressing / To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom’s core…” (Poe 4).
Those inner thoughts push the person to go insane and scream at the bird in hopes that it would just go away and leave them alone. In the quote, it shows that the person is having their own thoughts about how much they dislike the bird and how terrible the bird made the person feel. This is not contradictory to the main claim of the essay, but contradictory to some of the points that have made in the previous paragraphs. The language that is being shown here is the way the character is dealing with the vision that is being put in front of them. It pushes the reader to see the way Poe is using a more physical way for the character to go insane. Imagery and language are very important within these two pieces of literature because it helps sh ow the reader the different ways that the characters are dealing with their own sanities.
For example, in The Raven, the language talks about how disgusting the bird is. “What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore” (Poe, pg. 4). Not only does Poe use alliteration to help the flow of the sentence, he also uses synonyms for depressing/uninviting. Poe pushes the reader to see how the bird is causing the main character to go insane through the way he phrases and emphasises how badly the bird is unwanted. Another example in Insomnia is “Ralph could smell sweat, and some sort of aftershave that had almost completely faded away now, and something else-something that smelled like old curdled milk.
He wondered if it might be the smell of Ed’s madness.” (King 57). In these lines, King shows how Ralph was starting to go insane, because logically, a person cannot smell madness or at least identify the smell of madness. This shows the reader how Ralph was able to identify madness with certain things that he was already familiar with and possibly showing the reader the beginning of Ralph’s madness. CONCLUSION This essay has used extensive research about the works of both Edgar Allen Poe and Stephen King to show how they both portray visions. The differences have been laid out with the different sources.
There are very many holes in this essay and there have been a lot of questions that have come up, for example: To what extent can we say that Edgar Allan Poe and Stephen King are writing solely with gothic literature and not romanticism at all? This question would be much harder to answer and it’ll take even more in depth analysis to answer it thoroughly.As seen through out this essay, it has been shown how Edgar Allen Poe portrays his visions through a more physical path (meaning that his character experiences his hallucinations through a more physical gateway) and how Stephen King portrays his visions through a more mental path (meaning that his character experiences his hallucinations because he is dealing with insomnia). Bibliography: 1. King, Stephen. Insomnia. New York: Viking, 1994.
Print 2. Poe, Edgar Allan, and Ryan Price. The Raven. Toronto: KCP Poetry, 2006. Print. 3.
Snodgrass, Mary Ellen. Encyclopaedia of Gothic Literature. New York: Facts on File, 2005. Print.