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A “Character” in literature is a person that is in a narrative work of art such as a novel, poetry, play or film. The characters drive the action and give the work life and vitality. Character development is an important part of any story. Several authors are noted for being especially good at character development, namely Edgar Allen Poe and Charles Dickens.

When an author puts pen to paper, he or she utilize a myriad of technique to bring a story to life. While many of these techniques are imbedded in the process of rhetoric, many can be found in the basic structure of the following literary elements:

With the realization that some of the most basic elements of storytelling can create the most vivid of images, this investigation considers the role that character plays in the development of Edgar Allen Poe’s work. Character, as a literary element can be a research paper topic. This is an essay that was written by one of our writers. We can produce a custom written project that follows your guidelines.


Mechanism of Character Development

This mechanism of character development can also be seen in “The Cask of the Amontillado.” Although vivid descriptions of the character of the narrator are not given in this story, the actions of the narrator tell a gruesome story that overwhelmingly horrifying. In “The Cask” the reader is introduced to a murder that lives among the rich. While this may not be particularly shocking, what is shocking is the method that the murderer uses to dispose of his victim—i.e. walling of the victim in a deep catacomb. The calculated method by which the narrator had to procure the resources and concoct the right setting for the murder are analogous to what the reader may expect from a serial killer. These actions connote a deeply disturbed individual. What solidifies this reality is the final statement that the narrator makes at the end of the tale: “For a half century no mortal has disturbed them. In pace requiescant” (Rest in peace!).

“The Cask” is not the only story in which the issue of character is essential to the development of the story. “The Tell-Tale Heart” is also a classic example of Poe’s use of character. In this story, the narrator’s descent into madness is more akin to what Poe describes in “The Black Cat” however, the actions of the narrator most closely match those of the narrator in “The Cask.” Thus, “The Tell-tale heart” is a magnificent synthesis of both description and calculated action that makes Poe’s characters so intense. In this tale, the narrator is plagued by madness; however he believes himself to be sane. “You fancy me mad. Madmen know nothing. But you should have seen me. You should have seen how wisely I proceeded…”. Thus, in this tale, Poe unties the strongest qualities of action and description to enliven the senses of the reader and provide insight into the depths of madness.

Poe's Characters

Overall, Poe’s use of character in his stories is almost unprecedented in the annals of literature. While many authors have written of strong or virtuous characters, very few have been able to use their characters as the central mechanism to drive plot and action. For Poe, the narrators of his stories communicate the depths of human disparity and mental instability. This is not a reality that is easy to achieve through mere description. Through his characters Poe is able to bring to life the reality of what these individuals experienced. The end result is a description so vivid that the reader finds it almost difficult to read. Perhaps this is because the reader can see some vestiges of his own sanity in the characters or perhaps it is because Poe’s narrators tell more about the author than the reader truly wants to know.

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