August 27th, 2012

Dead Dog Cat

next essay for F&SF

This week's assignments were notable for the attention paid to setting the scene to maximize the reader's reaction to the revelations late in the story. In some cases, such as The Fall of the House of Usher, the scene was a character in its own right. The descriptions of the surroundings, the conditions of the building, and dingy interior made it clear that something awful was about to happen. The setting in Rappaccini's Daughter, the garden, was also integral to the story. The unnatural scents and flora and the young girl's response to them is key in increasing the reader's apprehension. In The Black Cat, Poe's protagonist is careful to describe in detail the basement and its wall in which he'd intended to entomb his wife. In each of these examples, the authors skillfully use the settings to enhance the reading experience and keep the audience from guessing the stories' denouement.

Setting is especially important in the visual arts. In the past, these would be painting, sculpture, architecture or gardening, all of which are used in the week's readings. Hawthorne and Poe use extensive vocabularies to make best use of the mind's eyes of their readers. In a way, this reminds me of reading H. P. Lovecraft's works. He spends much time in description of the sites of the action in his stories, bringing the mental camera in focus on horror and disgust; he often dabbled in madness, just as did Poe in several of these works. I found each of these tales, be they story or poem, to do much the same for me.