A critical commentary on Poe’s short story
‘Hop-Frog’, like many of Edgar Allan Poe’s best stories, carries the force of parable. It is a curious mixture of revenge, horror, and spectacle, about a dwarf who exacts spectacular brutal vengeance on a cruel monarch. The story was first published in March 1849; by the end of the year, Poe would be dead. You can read ‘Hop-Frog’, on which we now offer a few words of analysis, here.
In summary, ‘Hop-Frog’ is about a king who keeps a jester who is also a ‘dwarf’ and a ‘cripple’, who has been given the name Hop-Frog on account of his unusual way of walking which was actually ‘something between a leap and a wriggle’ (owing to his disability). Hop-Frog, and Trippetta, a young dwarfish girl noted for her dancing, had been given to the king as presents by one of his conquering generals, who had brought them back from a ‘barbarous’ part of the world the king’s generals had invaded. Hop-Frog and Trippetta have grown close, thanks to their shared status as slaves at the royal court, and look out for each other. One day the king orders a masquerade to be put on for his amusement, and forces Hop-Frog to drink wine and be ‘merry’. When Trippetta begs with the king to leave her friend alone, the king violently pushes her to the floor, and then furiously throws wine in her face. Read the rest of this entry
A summary of a classic poem
‘Why is a raven like a writing desk?’ This was the riddle posed by the Mad Hatter in Lewis Carroll’s 1865 book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Probably the most famous solution proposed to this riddle (for the riddle has never been answered with a definitive solution) is: ‘Because Poe wrote on both.’ ‘The Raven’ is undoubtedly Edgar Allan Poe’s most famous poem. It was first published under Poe’s name in January 1845, and has been popular ever since. It is the only literary work to inspire the name of a sporting team (the American Football team the Baltimore Ravens). According to Poe himself, in a later work of literary analysis, if he hadn’t had a change of heart we might well be reading a poem called, not ‘The Raven’, but ‘The Parrot’. The poem is so famous, so widely anthologised, that perhaps a closer analysis of its features and language is necessary to strip away some of our preconceptions about it. First, here is the poem.
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
‘’Tis some visitor,’ I muttered, ‘tapping at my chamber door—
Only this and nothing more.’ Read the rest of this entry
A commentary on a classic Poe story
‘The Cask of Amontillado’ is one of Poe’s shorter classic tales. It was first published in 1846 in a women’s magazine named Godey’s Lady’s Book, a hugely popular magazine in the US in the mid-nineteenth century. (The magazine had published one of Poe’s earliest stories, ‘The Visionary’, twelve years earlier.) ‘The Cask of Amontillado’ is one of Poe’s ‘revenge stories’, and the way he depicts the avenger’s psychological state is worthy of closer analysis. You can read the story here.
First, a quick summary of the plot of ‘The Cask of Amontillado’, which is our way of saying ‘those who wish to avoid spoilers please look away now’. The story is narrated by the murderer, Montresor, who takes revenge on a fellow Italian nobleman, Fortunato, during the carnival season. Fortunato, drunk and dressed in motley, boasts that he can tell an amontillado from other sherry, and so Montresor lures his rival down into Montresor’s family catacombs, saying that he has some amontillado for Fortunato to taste. Read the rest of this entry