An unreliable narrator’s story is not completely accurate because of their mental state. Edgar Allan Poe’s short stories are written in the 15th century. A time period were murder was uncommon. However is was common for people to plead insanity quite frequently. We see throughout Edgar Allan Poe’s short stories his continuous use of unreliable narration. Some of these short stories include, ‘The black cat’ ‘The cask of Amontillado’ and, ‘the Tell-Tale heart’ These short stories give an overall theme of insanity, horror, and fear because the unreliable narrator’s point of view is not to be trusted. The theme of madness is cleverly shown through the use of unreliable narration.
In both ‘The Tell Tale Heart’ and, ‘The Black Cat’ the narrators start off their tale stating their sanity. This immediately shows that the protagonist is unreliable. It’s shown to the reader first hand that the ‘insane’ protagonists often try to rationalize their odd actions and behavior. It’s shown in ‘The Black Cat’ the protagonist trying to rationalize his actions. After he had killed the animal, he adopts another black cat as a pet. The protagonist soon believes that the animal returned from beyond the grave to taunt him. The protagonist insists that a white colored fur spot on the animal is shaped as an image of the ‘gallows.’ His reluctance for not killing the animal sooner is because of his fear for the animal. The narrators unreliable view also shows the reasons for the murders, Through the use of the unreliable narrator we are able to clearly determine the narrators justifications for their murders. In the ‘Tell Tale Heart’ the narrator states his love for the old man and soon to be victim. It can be concluded his murderous deed was not done out of dislike for him, but rather his ‘evil’ eye’ The narrators speaks of his view of his victims eye, “one of his eyes resembled that of a vulture – a pale blue eye, with a film over it.
Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold.” (Poe, 792) Madness is truly shown through the narrators belief that his victim had an ‘evil eye’ that must be destroyed. In ‘The Black Cat’ the narrator also addresses his love for his favorite pet. He blames his increased irritability on alcohol. Ultimately he murders the cat just to be perverse, and so he states, “It was this unfathomable longing of the soul to vex itself…that urged me to continue and finally to consummate the injury I had inflicted upon the unoffending brute.” (Poe 852) He states many times in the short story about the idea of perversion. The narrator also kills his wife in the short story. His reason for doing so was that she stopped him from killing the second cat that he had taken in, after successfully killing the first. ‘the cask of Amontillado’ the protagonist, Montresor, states to have killed Fortunado out of revenge.
Murder alone is a clear indication of madness, but the reasoning for the narrators murders makes them look even more crazy. Fear is another central theme portrayed through out these short stories with the help of unreliable narration. Fear is connected closely with madness within Edgar Allan Poe’s short stories. In ‘The Tell Tale Heart’ the protagonist is fearful of the old mans heart. Also he confesses ultimately due to his fear. Fear is shown as well in ‘The Black Cat’ We see fear portrayed frequently throughout this short story. The narrators favorite cat Pluto quickly becomes fearful of the narrator after some abuse of the other animals. Later on in the short story fear is reversed because the narrator actually becomes fearful of a different cat. This particular cat the protagonist believes in be evil or maybe even a witch.