Poe And Burial Motifs
Poe is a very complicated author. His literary works are perplexed, disturbing,
and even grotesque. His frequent illnesses may have provoked his engrossment in
such things. In 1842 Dr. John W. Francis diagnosed Poe with sympathetic heart
trouble as well as brain congestion. He also noted Poe's inability to withstand
stimulants such as drugs and alcohol (Phillips 1508). These factors may have
motivated him to write The Tell-Tale-Heart, The Cask of Amontillado, and The

Black Cat. All of these stories are written in or around 1843, shortly after Poe
became afflicted. His writing helped him to cope with his troubles and explore
new territory in literature. Poe's interest in the supernatural, retribution,
and perverse cause them to be included in his burial motifs; therefore
sustaining his interest. There is a common thread laced through each subject,
but there is variation in degrees of the impact. The supernatural is the
phenomena of the unexplained. With this comes an aura of mystery and arousal of
fear. Death in itself is the supreme mystery. No living human being can be
certain of what happens to the soul when one dies. It is because of this
uncertainty that death is feared by many. These types of perplexing questions
cause a reader to come to a point of indifference within one of Poe's burial
motifs. One is uncertain of how the events can unfold, because a greater force
dictates them. Reincarnation in The Black Cat is a supernatural force at work.

There is some sort of orthodox witchcraft-taking place. The whole story revolves
around the cat, Pluto, coming back to avenge its death. One can not be sure how

Pluto's rebirth takes place, but it is certain that something of a greater force
has taken hold. The cat's appearance is altered when the narrator comes across
it the second time. There is a white spot on the chest "by slow degrees,
degrees nearly imperceptible...it had, at length, assumed a rigorous distinct
outline...of the GALLOWS" (Poe 4). Foretelling the narrator's fate a
confinement tool appears on the cat's chest. This also foreshadows the cat's
confinement in the tomb. It reappears like a disease to take vengeance on a man
that has committed horrid crimes. "I was answered by a voice within the
tomb! --By a cry, at first muffled and broken, like the sobbing of a child, and
quickly swelling into one long, loud and continuous scream, utterly anomalous
and inhuman--a howl--a wailing shriek, half of honor and half of triumph (Poe

6). Pluto is like Poe's reoccurring illness it keeps coming back just when he
thinks it is gone. This can be related to the ever-looming question of why
people become afflicted with disease. Is it punishment for wrongdoing? Some
religions find this to be the answer. Poe's intrigue in reincarnation may have
been in that of his own immortality. Metaphysical events take place in The

Tell-Tale-Heart. The perpetrator is driven by some unknown source to reveal his
evil deed. The paranoia he feels is very real to him. "I fancied a ringing
in my ears...[it] became more distinct...I found that the noise was not within
my ears...It is the beating of the hideous heart [of the old man]" (Poe 3).

Ringing is heard only in the man's head, but because a impetus has compelled him
to believe otherwise he is inclined to reveal his misdeed. The source of the
man's "voices" is from a force within himself. One's soul is an
unexplainable power, which governs over the body. The murder of the old man is
committed in passion. Disregarding any rational thoughts the narrator is engaged
in his own desires. His unconcern for mankind causes his own insanity. Even he
can not live with his actions. The mind as a supernatural force, that dictates
life, can only cope with so much. Poe himself experiences hallucinations from
his illness, and abuse of alcohol. Years of defilement caused his body, and mind
to break down. At one point in time Poe raved "...for protection from an
imaginary army of conspirators disguised as 'loungers'" (Mankowitz 232).

Constant weight on ones mind can lead to insanity. Human beings can lose control
of their lives. The Tell-Tale-Heart illustrates the human spirit as a mysterious
and unexplainable force. Poe's life was full of turmoil, which inevitably caused
his madness. The enveloping force of evil drives Montressor to commit murder in

The Cask of Amontillado. If supernatural is used in its broadest sense to mean
"unexplained" then the force that impels Montressor's lack of humanity
is indeed supernatural. Evil, as a uninhibited force