How Doyle and Poe represent crime in their stories Essay

Poe’s most exemplary writing is the cause of his uniquely terrifying world, and intriguing connections to facets of the author’s tragically disordered life. He is also responsible for his most famous poems ‘The Raven’, ‘Ulalume’, ‘The Bells’ and ‘The City in the Sea’ which were enormously influential. These famous verses were behind a powerful wave of enthusiasm for Poe that arose among the leading writers of Europe during his own lifetime, spread thereafter around the world, and was sustained through the ‘discovery’ of existential ‘human condition’ themes in his short stories, generations later. Poe’s theory was that, the writer should aim at creating a single and total psychological or spiritual effect upon the reader. The theme or plot of the piece is always subordinate to the author’s calculated construction of a single, intense mood in the reader’s mind, be it melancholy, suspense, or horror.

In his story ‘Tell Tale Heart’, Poe creates an atmosphere filled with apprehension, revulsion. He also examines the criminal mentality, by using a variety of technical features and reasons for terror that is never apparent, resulting in the frightening events of his story. In it Poe uses the criminal’s point of view, presenting the story from a different perspective, allowing the reader to analyze and explore the dark side of the criminal psyche, which Poe presents alluring and obnoxious at the same time.

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Poe’s loathsome criminal, acts as the protagonist, and narrates the story, ‘I killed …I put…I undid’. The pronoun ‘I’ indicates that the criminal is referring to himself, providing the reader with a clear image of what the criminal’s intentions and actions are, presenting the crime. There are no extra elements in Poe, no subplots, no minor characters, and no digressions except those that show the madness of deranged first-person (“I”) narrators. This further gives the impression that the criminal is obsessed with himself and is over confident, thinking that he is ‘…wise…’, talented and very cunning, wanting to make the point clear that he is doing the right thing very carefully.

During the criminal’s preparation for the murder he enters the man’s room everyday, thrusting his head first through the door, ‘I moved slowly- very, very slowly…stealthily, stealthily….not disturb..’. Poe uses the adverbs ‘stealthily and slowly’, to describe the criminal’s cautious and vigilant movements, using the continued use of repetition also explaining the criminal’s self obsession and importance of his task. However, it also highlights the character inability to judge himself clearly and is denial, clearly missing the part of his own personality. Poe continues to describe the killer’s behavior ‘audacity of prefect triumph’ and being ‘…a madman….’ using powerful adjectives, and at the same time creating a paradox.

Poe’s use of varied types of language also reflected upon the type of character the criminal is, including inverted word orders such as, ‘He had never wronged me. He had never given me insult’ this technique emphasizes the criminal’s reasons and makes the text more interesting. ‘For his gold I had no desire’, the verb ‘desire’ is a negative impression but puts the idea of the criminal’s passion into the reader’s mind. The quotation is also monosyllabic, which Poe uses to create tension in the text. It also illustrates the fact that the criminal wasn’t targeting the old man for anything between them, or for his money and fortunes, which shows that the killer’s thoughts and actions are clearly supernatural and were deliberately performed. This portraits the fact that the criminal is undoubtedly insane about getting rid of the old man’s eye.

Comparable to Doyle, Poe includes comparison, ‘…eye of a vulture- a pale blue eye…’ comparing the old man’s eye using animal imagery. This use of personification adds more interest and it also symbolizes hatred and evil towards the criminal. The lack of sight leaves a person vulnerable and lost, in this situation Poe could be describing the man’s eye being sharp and focused like a vulture’s. Although on the other hand, vultures are carnivorous, large birds of prey those feed on carcasses and are associated with death, traveling in packs. He continues describing it as ‘…his Evil Eye…’ his use of capitalization of this alliteration indicates that the eye is an importance to the killer and shows that he has specifically ‘named’ the eye. This once again, illustrates the fact that the criminal is, undoubtedly fixated and is entirely paranoid about the eye.

Poe continues personifying the old man’s death, ‘It grew louder, louder’ describing the continuous, deafening sound of the old man’s pulse. The louder the criminal thought the heart beated, the more his anxiety increased, driving him even more obsessive and furious in killing the old man. The killer is delusional at this point once he hears the heart beat and is afraid of the neighbors hearing the old man. This is because he was obsessed in getting rid of the eye; he gets carried away with his task. Poe symbolizes the heart beat as the old man’s life and also to the memory of the criminal and his increase in panic.

Throughout the last paragraph, Poe adds tension using a number of exclamation marks and dashes creating suspense, and shows the increasing anxiety within the killer’s thoughts. The exclamation marks ‘Villains! …no more! …admit deed! – tear up the planks! …here! Here! – …hideous heart!!’ explains that the criminal has spoken suddenly to express his anger and fury by yelling at the policemen for ‘making…mockery of my horror’. It also adds tension and shows the increase of pace in his speech, as the killer’s anxiety and nervousness increases, whilst he thinks that the policemen suspect him.

Holmes was first created by Doyle in a story called ‘A Study in Scarlet’ published in 1887. Sherlock Holmes was based on Edgar Allan Poe’s detective C. Auguste Dupin and Eugene Francois Vidoq, a former criminal who became chief of the Surete, Paris’ police force. Holmes’ physical appearance was that of Dr. Joseph Bell, Doyle’s teacher from the University of Edinburgh. His surname came from Oliver Wendell Holmes, an American poet admired by Doyle. Within the timeline of the stories, Holmes lived in London at 221B Baker Street from approximately 1881 to 1903. During this time, the later part of the Victorian period, the British Empire was at its zenith and London was the center of all things. By 1917 was to be the last year a Sherlock Holmes story was published. By 1920, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was one of the highest paid writers in the world. Many later writers have been inspired to continue the Sherlock Holmes adventures and were the first to popularize the detective as a deducer of facts.

Perhaps the main difference between Poe and Doyle’s narratives is that, Poe examines the dark side of the criminal psyche. However, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle focuses on Holmes’s remarkable and astonishing detective skills and his ability to solve crime, using mainly the logical facts and reasons relating to the crime. Doyle uses Holmes’s most trustworthy and loyal companion, Doctor Watson, playing the part as the protagonist, to narrate the story, from his perspective. Doyle’s main reason for this was to entertain the reader, allowing them to explore the investigation from Watson’s point of view, just as a normal person would see things. Dr. Watson’s way of seeing the crime is quite different as to Holmes’s, as he leads the reader through red herrings resulting to a solution quite different from Holmes. On the other hand if Holmes were the narrator, the solution to the case would be obvious once it has been presented, resulting to a shorter story.

Similarly to Poe, Doyle uses various sentence lengths and structures, also using many subordinate clauses such as ‘…studied methods…Holmes, I find many tragic, some comic, a large …strange, but none common place; for, working as he ….acquirement of wealth, …. towards the unusual’ recalling their previous cases. This also reflects upon Holmes’s and Dr. Watson’s intelligence, and gives the impression that they are sophisticated Victorian gentlemen. The main clause ‘I find many tragic’ is when Watson describes many of their cases unfortunate and ill-fated using the adjective ‘tragic’. Doyle has also included conjunctions ‘but none common place’ using it to join the rest of the complex sentence together.

The order of the information in the sentence, are in subordinate clauses ‘….find many tragic, some comic, a large …’ indicate the most important first. Since the story was written in the 19th centaury, Doyle has included formal language, adding interest, such as ‘commonplace’ describing that none of their cases were ordinary. Alike Poe, Doyle has also used short sentences creating tension and suspense making the text more interesting ‘It is fear, Mr. Holmes. It is terror.’ The first sentence ‘It is fear, Mr. Holmes’ is monosyllabic, which Doyle uses to create fear and suspense. The nouns ‘fear’ and ‘terror’ convey the reader that the person is shocked and horrified of something, which almost overpowers her. However, Holmes shows no affection towards the woman, portraying an image that he isn’t emotionally involved, and is only interested in the information and events of the crime.

Most of the dialogues between the characters are formal, since the story took place in the Victorian period, when the British Empire was at its zenith and London was the center of all things. Doyle’s use of language also reflects upon the type of characters in his story ‘…left arm….splattered with mud….no less than seven places…perfectly fresh….save a dog-cart..’ exemplifies Holmes’s keen and accurate observations. Doyle has used the noun ‘dog-cart’ referring to an old Victorian, two-wheeled, horse-drawn carriage, making the text more interesting by inserting formal, Victorian vocabulary.

Unlike Poe, Doyle’s’ uses of accurate descriptive language helps the reader to create a clear image of the story and what is occurring ‘…face drawn gray, with restless, frightened eyes, like those of some haunted animal…’ describing the character. The adjectives ‘restless’ and ‘frightened’ describes the woman’s state and gives the impression that she is terrified and agitated about what is concerning her. Similar to Poe, Doyle also includes personification, comparing the woman’s eyes to ‘…some haunted animal…’ using animal imagery, the adjective ‘haunted’ suggesting that the woman wore a worried and troubled expression.

In general Poe presents crime, using repetition ‘nervous-…dreadfully nervous’ to intensify the reader whilst using short sentences adding tension ‘He had never wronged me’. The long sentences include a lot of description, using several adjectives ‘wise…audacity…’, and information about his intentions and objectives. Similarly, Doyle uses the same method although he has a number of long sentences including subordinate clauses, plus a wide range of descriptive language and Victorian vocabulary, illuminating the intelligence and sophistication of Holmes and Watson. On the other hand, Poe also uses a variety of punctuation marks such as exclamation marks and dashes, ‘Villains! …no more! …’ creating tension, apprehension and explicates the killer’s growing anger and anxiety. Although Doyle’s story doesn’t show a variety of punctuation marks, he has included formal language and dialogues between the characters and keeps the reader interested by giving clues to the investigation whilst Watson leads the reader through red herrings.

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