For the Readers Imbibing Peril (RIP) Challenge in which I am participating, I read three of Edgar Allan Poe’s creepy short stories today. I figured that, combined with Poe’s poetry–some of which is creepy, as well–the works I read would all together count as one of the two “novels, short stories, works, etc.” required for my Peril the Second goal. I have three reviews, one for each of the short stories I read today. By the way, I read them all from PoeStories.com.
Just to note, the summaries have some spoilers in them as I had to write them myself and I’m bad at it 🙂
Title: Ligeia (http://poestories.com/read/ligeia)
Publication Date: 1838
Summary: Ligeia was the first wife of the narrator, an unnamed man. He loved her deeply and described much of her character to the reader. However, she became ill and feverish and soon perished. A few months after Ligeia’s death, her husband purchased an English abbey in which to live and subsequently—as he was very lonely and had taken up the hobby of opium—married again, to a “fair-haired and blue-eyed” maiden, Lady Rowena. A couple of months after this marriage, Rowena became ill with a fever and her “hallucinations” never really ceased after she recovered—she always spoke of the slightest sound, shadow, or movement. One night, she had a “fit” while the narrator was under the opium veil—he thought he saw things, such as those Rowena would fear (like shadows), but blamed the opium. The narrator believes he sees Rowena poisoned while drinking her wine to stay from fainting and, days later, Rowena does indeed die. As he sits in mourning with her body, he keeps believing he hears her stir and finds her color returned. At the end of the story, the narrator sees the spirit/body of one of his wives (but I won’t ruin it for you) rise and live.
My Thoughts: A very interesting story! It wasn’t that interesting in the beginning, when Poe basically describes Ligeia’s physical character and how the narrator loves her. But when she dies and the second wife is “ill” and sees/hears things, it gets interesting. I (probably pretty obviously) think the spirit of Ligeia haunts Rowena and may even have been the cause of her death. But the narrator never forgot Ligeia, so I guess her spirit wasn’t that perceptive.
In a weird way, this story reminds me of Lisa See’s Peony in Love, where the man’s true love’s spirit haunts his wife. It would make it easier to point out the parallels, but I don’t want to ruin Peony in Love if you haven’t read it yet 🙂
Favorite Passage/Quote (long ones):
“And now those eyes shone less and less frequently upon the pages over which I pored. Ligeia grew ill. The wild eyes blazed with a too –too glorious effulgence; the pale fingers became of the transparent waxen hue of the grave, and the blue veins upon the lofty forehead swelled and sank impetuously with the tides of the gentle emotion. I saw that she must die –and I struggled desperately in spirit with the grim Azrael. And the struggles of the passionate wife were, to my astonishment, even more energetic than my own. There had been much in her stern nature to impress me with the belief that, to her, death would have come without its terrors; –but not so. Words are impotent to convey any just idea of the fierceness of resistance with which she wrestled with the Shadow. I groaned in anguish at the pitiable spectacle. would have soothed –I would have reasoned; but, in the intensity of her wild desire for life, –for life –but for life –solace and reason were the uttermost folly. Yet not until the last instance, amid the most convulsive writhings of her fierce spirit, was shaken the external placidity of her demeanor.”
Title: The Black Cat (http://poestories.com/read/blackcat)
Publication Date: 1845
Summary: An unnamed man is the narrator. From a young age, he loved animals and had many pets. When he married, his wife had the same feelings towards domestic pets as did he and they together had many pets, which included dogs, rabbits, birds, a small monkey, and a black cat. The black cat, Pluto was his name, was the narrator’s favorite—his wife, a little superstitious, was not as fond of the all black cat (saying goes they are witches in disguise). As he grew older, the narrator began to be more annoyed by the pets, the last one he got annoyed with being Pluto—he loved him more than the others. In a drunken rage, Pluto loses and eye as penitence for biting his master when he roughly handled him. This was the first in a line of treating Pluto badly—the narrator, one day, hangs him from a tree because it kept avoiding him ever since he had taken the eye. That night, the narrator’s entire house was destroyed by a fire. A stray cat arrives in the story, also missing an eye, but with a white patch on his breast—the narrator thinks nothing of it, until the he sees white patch resemble a gallows. In a rage, the narrator attempts to kill the new cat, but his wife stops him and he thus kills her instead. He places her corpse in the wall of the cellar and the police only find her when they hear a screeching noise coming from within the walls—it was the cat that made the noise.
My Thoughts: I rather enjoyed this particular story. I think that not only could this be considered a “horror story about a cat”, as the PoeStories.com website describes it, but as a slow descent into madness. The narrator would have to be going mad to be so hot-and-cold towards the animals, in particular the cats. Not to mention the fact that he murdered his wife because she stopped him from murdering the cat—what sane person would do such a thing? So this story was fairly spooky, if just because of the way we, as readers, can see the narrators thoughts and “justifications” for killing.
Favorite Passage/Quote (long ones):
“Yet I am not more sure that my soul lives, than I am that perverseness is one of the primitive impulses of the human heart — one of the indivisible primary faculties, or sentiments, which give direction to the character of Man. Who has not, a hundred times, found himself committing a vile or a silly action, for no other reason than because he knows he should not? Have we not a perpetual inclination, in the teeth of our best judgment, to violate that which is Law, merely because we understand it to be such? This spirit of perverseness, I say, came to my final overthrow. It was this unfathomable longing of the soul to vex itself — to offer violence to its own nature — to do wrong for the wrong’s sake only — that urged me to continue and finally to consummate the injury I had inflicted upon the unoffending brute. One morning, in cool blood, I slipped a noose about its neck and hung it to the limb of a tree; — hung it with the tears streaming from my eyes, and with the bitterest remorse at my heart; — hung it because I knew that it had loved me, and because I felt it had given me no reason of offence; — hung it because I knew that in so doing I was committing a sin — a deadly sin that would so jeopardize my immortal soul as to place it — if such a thing were possible — even beyond the reach of the infinite mercy of the Most Merciful and Most Terrible God.”
Title: The System of Dr. Tarr and Prof. Fether (http://poestories.com/read/systemoftarr)
Publication Date: 1856
Summary (a quote from the end of the story was the best description of the story): “Monsieur Maillard, it appeared, in giving me the account of the lunatic who had excited his fellows to rebellion, had been merely relating his own exploits. This gentleman had, indeed, some two or three years before, been the superintendent of the establishment, but grew crazy himself, and so became a patient. This fact was unknown to the travelling companion who introduced me. The keepers, ten in number, having been suddenly overpowered, were first well tarred, then — carefully feathered, and then shut up in underground cells. They had been so imprisoned for more than a month, during which period Monsieur Maillard had generously allowed them not only the tar and feathers (which constituted his “system”), but some bread and abundance of water. The latter was pumped on them daily. At length, one escaping through a sewer, gave freedom to all the rest.”
My Thoughts: This story was pretty entertaining and not really all that creepy/spooky/etc. I had suspected from the beginning of the narrator’s experience at the Maison de Sante two things might happen: 1) that Monsiuer Maillard was crazy (which was true) and 2) that the narrator might somehow be trapped at the Maison de Sante and be forced to “become” a lunatic patient whom no one believed when he said he wasn’t a real patient (which was wrong). But I especially liked the patients all describing themselves in the third person because they really sounded like they were sane people describing lunatics—and yet they found nothing wrong, in reality, with themselves.
My RIP Challenge is now complete, but I might continue a little with the weird reading.