Monday, August 27, 2012

Poe: An Ap-peal

In Poe's "The Bells" we hear a musical interpretation of the arc of a life. In "The Black Cat" we can see a prose version of one man's "wild yet most homely" journey from happiness to madness (p 223).

The short, happy time of youth is heard in the "merriment" and "crystalline delight" of sleigh bells (ll 3, 8). All is hopeful in the beginning, like the "docility and humanity" which Poe's narrator claims (p 223).

Married partnership lasts slightly longer and the sounds of wedding bells are "harmony" and "euphony" as the couple begin "in tune" (ll 17, 21, 26). Our narrator is "happy" with his wife as her attitude is "not uncongenial" to his own (p 223). Life is pleasant, if uneventful.

Calm is shattered by the "alarum bells" - our narrator begins to drink heavily and undergoes severe personality changes (l 36)(p 224).  He abuses his wife and disfigures Pluto. The bells' sounds of "terror" and "turbulency" are this household's soundtrack where "danger ebbs & flows" (ll 38, 60). The parallel is even seen in the fire that destroys the narrator's home, although the culmination is his wife's "assassination" (p 229). This is the longest stanza of the poem so far and the majority of the story - of a life.

That is, until the final bells - the "iron bells" - the bells of death begin to toll (l 71). No portion of a life is longer or more feared.  The bells' "melancholy menace" is nothing compared to the "Ghouls: / And their king" who rejoice in our demise (ll 75, 89-90). If the narrator is remorseful or lonely for his wife, it is barely addressed, and his undoing is the sound and sight of the one eyed cat, perched on his wife's head, howling and rejoicing in "consigning [him] to the hangman" (pp 230).

Looking at these works together shows that the melodic bells are accompanying the stages of our lives, and that a seemingly simple story is enhanced when you imagine them tolling the changing emotions in a household.

Peer reviews (form)
student1 → All correct for what I could see.
student2 → Most of the sentences are grammatically correct. There aren't important mistakes but the arguments could be laid out in a clearer way.
student3 → The argumentation is too hard to follow. The comparison of the two works is confusing and the similarities and differences of the two are not made very clear.
student4 → Your form is fine. However, the constant references to lines in the poems are a little distracting and make it difficult to follow your thought processes. Perhaps a few less examples and a little more analysis would have been helpful.
student1 → The way of exposure is not inviting for a reader. This is not an essay about an exact science. I would expect to read something like this in, lets say, mathematics.
student2 → This essay shows a deep understanding of the poems and helps us to get a good one to. Its arguments are persuasive and significant. There are many references so I think it deserves a 3.
student3 → The idea is original and it seems interesting to analyse the message of a writing through sensory information. However the argumentation is too confusing to make an impact.
student4 → Your analysis and connections between the bells and the arc of life is intriguing. It is a little harder to see your connections with the black cat-they are thrown in as though in an afterthought. Perhaps limiting yourself to the one story would have allowed more analysis.
student1 → Your essay is more an enumeration of facts then a structured flowing text. Good conclusion though.
student4 → An interesting contrast. Thank you

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