Themes That Scare You: Poe and the Heart

Perhaps it’s the looming approach of October and all the spooky festivities the month brings, but lately I’ve had my mind on Edgar Allan Poe. I’ve always admired his work, especially his belief that a short story should be read in a single sitting.

Though tales of darkness and images of creepy character spring to mind when I consider Poe’s work, I recently realized that there seems to be a recurring theme in his works and quotes: the heart.

It’s as if Poe was haunted by the heart; bot the physical and metaphorical heart. Where do we see this theme take place in his work and life, what is the underlying idea that creates intrigue within his audience?

An Unexplainable Force:

Sometimes I’m terrified of my heart; of it’s constant hunger for whatever it is it wants. the way it stops and starts.” -Edgar Allan Poe

The way Poe personifies the physical human heart here is provocative and eery in Poe’s own crafty manner. We get the sense that the heart is a driving and mysterious force with a will we are helpless against. What does the heart want? What keeps it beating and why does it beat? Asking these questions is human nature, but Poe explicitly admits to being “terrified” of the heart, demonstrating his own reverence for the entity inside us all.

Its Power Over Our Mind:

I was never really insane, except upon occasions when my heart was touched.” -Edgar Allan Poe

Here Poe is speaking about the figurative, “feelings” heart. Again, the human is not in control of his or her heart’s feelings. Poe implies that even the mind can be taken captive by the heart, with the outcome of insanity. It’s a gripping quote, and certainly one that most everyone can relate with. Who hasn’t felt a bit “crazy” from anger, love, jealousy, etc?

A Haunting, Ugly Conscience:

It is the beating of his hideous heart!” -The Tell Tale Heart

Poe’s heart theme is no more obvious than in his short story, ‘The Tell Tale Heart’. The heart takes on a couple of roles in this story. The beating of the neighbor’s heart acts as a will for the neighbor, and as a kind of conscience for the narrator.

Despite lack of a pulse, which the narrator is sure to check, the neighbor’s heart continues to beat – as if calling for vengeance. The increasingly loud beat of the heart leads the narrator to confess to the murder. Despite all his attempts to repress the beat (will) of the heart, the narrator could not silence it.

As we welcome October, let’s ask ourselves what haunts us, and how does that surface in our writing? As evidenced by Poe, there is nothing wrong with fear, and its presence can inspire us to great works of art.

What scares, or intrigues, you enough to have become a driving theme in your writing? Share your thoughts in the comments! 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s