Sunday, September 7, 2008

Between the three stories that were assigned for this week, I’m having trouble deciding which one appeals most to me.

I have a history with “The Cask of Amontillado.” It was assigned reading for a high school English class of mine, and I remember that at the time I hated it. Poe was difficult for me to comprehend; I had a distain for stories with complex metaphors.

This time around was much different. Because I understood the basic plot details, such as the inevitable demise of the ironically named Fortunado, I focused less on the story itself and more on the underlying messages one can elicit from the text. I loved the incessant number of times Montressor winks at the audience about the fate of Fortunado; Montressor’s feigning interest in his enemy’s health makes the demise of Fortunado all the more sweet.

I enjoyed “Bartleby, The Scrivener” for a diametrically different reason. In this story, my perception of Bartleby was central in my thoughts. Because of that, it was important that my knowledge of the plot was opaque. The evolution of my understanding of Bartleby – from a distant character of frustrating defiance to one of utter pity – could only happen, in my opinion, on a first read. A second time through the story I am sure would provide me with more insight, but the story is at its most powerful the first time.

I feel that I’m fortunate to have had these specific previous experiences with the two aforementioned stories. In “The Cask of Amontillado” the eventual demise of Fortunado was all but told to us at the beginning – plot was thus secondary. In “Bartleby, The Scrivener,” it was of great importance to at first have distain with the narrator for Bartleby and later feel his pity. With these two conflicting emotions, the sorrow the narrator feels for Bartleby’s demise feels much more potent.

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