Ranking Edgar Allan Poe’s Top 10 Stories

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Edgar Allan Poe was one of the most inventive and versatile authors in American literature. He was also one of the first American writers to support himself through his writing. Born Edgar Poe in Boston in 1809, after his father left his family and his mother died, he was raised primarily in Richmond, Virginia by the Allan family. He died in Baltimore in 1849 at the age of 40 of still unknown causes.

Poe’s stories convey in a few pages what some writers take hundreds of pages to tell. They contain puns and symbolism, but also anticipate more realistic writers like Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Before the formal realm of psychology existed, Poe’s stories explored guilt, paranoia, delusions, and obsessions. Poe helped create the overlapping moods and genres of horror, mystery, historical fiction, wake, sci-fi and fantasy as we know them today.

Known primarily as a literary critic during his lifetime, Poe worked for several literary journals. Unlike many other 19and writers of the century, Poe believed that fiction should never be didactic or moralistic. His theory and his fiction helped define the short story as a form.

You can buy Poe’s news in bookstores, and most are available for free online at Project Gutenberg and other sites.

Sources disagree on how many works of fiction Poe wrote, though most estimates it was at least 70 or 80. For January 19, 2022, the 213and anniversary of his birth, here is a ranking of ten of his best stories.

The 10 Best Poe Stories, Ranked

1. “The Revealing Heart”

One of his shortest stories, it’s the epitome of Poe’s story in many ways. It concisely presents its recurring elements of guilt, paranoia, murder, and anonymous narrators rationalizing their actions. The murdered man’s heart pounding through the boards is one of Poe’s most chilling and iconic images, blurring the line between psychological and supernatural horror.

The Barrel of Amontillado cover

2. “The Barrel of Amontillado”

The protagonist, Montressor, lures his acquaintance, Fortunato, into a wine cellar that is actually a crypt. He then immures him and leaves him to die inside. Montressor is one of Poe’s most terrifying and unreliable narrators. We never even learn “the thousand wounded” or the final “insult” Fortunato committed against Montressor in the first place. Poe’s sinister sense of humor is underrated, but his characters often have ironic names. Fortunato means lucky in Italian.

The Fall of House Usher cover

3. “The Fall of House Usher”

Dr. Oliver Tearle described this story as a gothic novel condensed in a short story. It contains many features of gothic literature before and after Poe: decadence, aristocracy, and an old house with family secrets, including incest. Guillermo del Toro’s horror movie Crimson Peak and the novel by Silvia Moreno-Garcia mexican gothic are excellent recent versions of gothic fiction that share some key elements with this story.

Cover of The Well and the Pendulum

4. “The Pit and the Pendulum”

This story makes its suspense and danger seem immediate to both the narrator and the readers. During the Inquisition in Europe centuries earlier, the anonymous narrator is trapped in a cell between two equally perilous forms of torture: the pit and the swinging scythe-shaped pendulum blade. His nightmarish imagery takes old clichés like being stuck in a crucible, or between a rock and a hard place, and brings them to life, both literally and metaphorically.

book cover of The Masque of the Red Death

5. The Masque of the Red Death

During a highly contagious epidemic, the Red Death, the ruthless and creative Prince Prospero and his friends throw a lavish masquerade ball. They seem oblivious to the danger and their own privilege – then the personified Red Death appears. Today, people pick up on this story or find it too much on the nose during the COVID-19 pandemic.

book cover of The Murders of the Rue Morgue

6. “The Rue Morgue Murders”

There is some debate over whether Poe’s character Auguste Dupin was the first fictional detective. Although Poe may not have invented the word “detective”, he influenced the entire mystery genre, including that of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. sherlock holmes. Dupin later appeared in two other Poe stories: “The Mystery of Marie Roget” and “The Stolen Letter”. Along with Dupin, Poe established many detective story conventions. These include a private detective, independent of the police department, who uses logical reasoning to solve crimes.

The Oval Portrait cover

7. The Oval Portrait

A painter draws his wife’s life force into a portrait of her, killing her. This bizarre story plays on ancient myths of mirrors and paintings capturing the souls of subjects. Some critics see this story as a possible influence on Oscar Wilde’s Victorian novel Dorian Gray’s photo.

The Premature Burial cover

8. “Premature Burial”

The narrator has a phobia of being buried alive and he describes supposedly true examples of this phenomenon. In the early 1800s this would have been a reasonable fear, as it was theoretically possible and sometimes happened. Poe has used different approaches to being buried alive in other stories, including “The Fall of House Usher” and “The Barrel of Amontillado”.

Man of the Crowd cover

9. “Man of the Crowd”

An anonymous observer in a crowd becomes fascinated by a stranger and follows him. This short story is often taught alongside the poet Charles Baudelaire’s description of a stroller or idle. As always, Poe’s ability to create suspense and his knowledge of history, Greek and French make the story memorable. Both Poe and Baudelaire described writers as avid observers of life.

Cover of The Black Cat

10. “The Black Cat”

Often associated with “The Tell-Tale Heart”, this story features another anonymous, unreliable and violent narrator. He goes from animal abuse to murder and is literally and figuratively haunted by his actions. As usual with Poe, the ambiguity makes it even scarier. We don’t know if something supernatural is happening or if we can believe everything the narrator says.

Other work

Edgar Allan Poe began writing poetry as a teenager, and his poems are just as compelling and enduring as his stories. His most famous poems include The crow, Annabelle Lee, and “Lénore”. His critical theory includes “The Poetic Principle”, published posthumously and compiles many of his lectures on literary theory.

Poe’s influence is ubiquitous in 20th and 21st century fiction, from Modernism to the twisted endings of The twilight zone and black mirror. Horror films with victims trapped in torture chambers are influenced by “The Pit and the Pendulum”. Modern thrillers, especially those with confessions or the narration of murderers, are also influenced by Poe’s stories. In 2019, Book Riot published a list of some examples of Poe references in pop culture, including The simpsons Horror treehouse. In House of Salt and Pains, a 2019 YA gothic horror novel and fairy tale tale by Erin A. Craig, several character names refer to Poe and his characters.

Can’t get enough of Poe’s stories and poems? Check out these songs inspired by Edgar Allan Poe and His hideous heart, a YA anthology of Poe stories edited by Dahlia Adler.

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