Edgar Allan Poe is the author of many well-known stories such as The Tell Tale Heart The Pit and the Pendulum and The Black Cat. He has also composed many famous poems such as The Raven and Annabel Lee. These works are representative of what Poe is best known for his horror filled stories. His use of the single effect catches the reader in a tale of terror in the first line of the story or poem and continues to keep the reader in fear suspense and anticipation to the very last. However Poe is the author of many different types of short stories and poems. Contrary to what many believe Poe s main purpose in many of his stories is not to frighten his reader but to humor this reader; this is proven in such works as Diddling Loss of Breath: A Tale Neither in nor Out of Blackwood and Never Bet the Devil Your Head: A Tale With a Moral.
Diddling by Edgar Allan Poe is quite obviously a story about diddling. Such a trivial subject provides a humorous read for his audience. More importantly it reveals the humorous side that is only apparent in some of Poe s works.
Diddling- or the abstract idea conveyed by the verb to diddle- is sufficiently well understood. Yet the fact the deed the thing diddling is somewhat hard to define. We may get however at a tolerably distinct conception of the matter at hand by defining- not the thing diddling in itself- but man as an animal that diddles. Had Plato but hit upon this he would have been spared the affront of the picked chicken.
This quote from Diddling shows the humorous side of Poe. His comparison to Plato s work is one that could not be even attempted in a more serious work. Brilliant works such as this prove that Poe should be more well known for his humor than he is.
Poe also uses satire to convey a message to his critics. This is apparent in his short story Never Bet the Devil You Head: A Tale With a Moral. After being criticized for his stories not having any morals he wrote this tale. In this story he not only calls these critics ignoramuses but he makes the moral of the story overly obvious implying that these moral mongers as he called them lacked the intelligence to decipher the moral in works of fiction unless the author of the story makes it obvious. In the story the main character is Toby Dammit a man who has many imperfections (because his mother was left-handed and she flogged him a child flogged left-handedly had better be left unflogged ) one of which is gambling. He did not actually gamble for money; it was just a habit of his to use phrases such as I ll bet you what you please. One day he bet the Devil his head that he could jump over a turnstile in a bridge. As he did this the narrator noticed something:
My glance at length fell into a nook of the frame-work of the bridge and upon the figure of a little old gentleman of venerable aspect. Nothing could be more reverend than his whole appearance; for he did not only had on a full suit of black but his shirt was perfectly clean and the collar turned very neatly down over a white cravat while his hair was parted in front like a girl s. His hands were clasped pensively together over his stomach and his two eyes were carefully rolled into the top of his head.
This is quite obviously the devil who then lays down the conditions and rules of this bet. Mr. Dammit goes ahead and attempts the jump but does not make it and the narrator sees the little old gentleman running away with something in his apron. Mr. Dammit was found dead with no head. He then realizes that a metal bar must have severed Mr. Dammit s head but the head was nowhere to be found. This story makes the moral overly obvious and insults those critics who criticized him for his lack of morals in his stories. His use of satire to silence his critics shows the power of his writing as well as the humor he is capable of. This humor is exactly the type of story Poe he deserves to be better known for.
Loss of Breath: A Tale Neither In not Out of Blackwood is a story about a man the narrator obsessed with telling his wife how insignificant she is. It also happens to be the day after their wedding. Whenever he gets close to her however he loses his breath. So he decides to go out of the country but when he gets on the train still out of breath he drops dead. Even though he is dead he is still aware of what is happening to him. When he is put in a trunk his limbs are dislocated and his head is twisted. An apothecary starts to dissect him but realizes he might not be dead. From this point on the narrator satirically explains what it is like to be dead and points out the stupidity of people.
Thou wretch! – thou vixen! – thou shrew! said I to my wife on the morning after our wedding; thou witch! thou hag! thou whippersnapper thou sink of iniquity! thou fiery-faced quintessence of all that is abominable! thou thou here standing upon tiptoe seizing her by the throat and placing my mouth close to my ear I was preparing to launch forth a new and more decided epithet of opprobrium which should not fail if ejaculated to convince her of her insignificance
This hilarious passage from the story shows Poe s ability to humor his audience. It can therefore be inferred that Poe s reputation as a horror writer is not because of the quality of his more comical stories but only because of the success of those more frightening stories leaving Poe s humorous side is virtually unknown.
Poe should be better known for his humor than he is. In such literary works as Diddling Loss of Breath: A Tale Neither in nor Out of Blackwood and Never Bet the Devil Your Head: A Tale With a Moral Poe expresses his abilities as a humorist. In these stories the single effect is not horror as it is in his better known stories. It is instead humor and Poe should be better known for his humor than he is.