Like all other writers, Poe, too, created his own unique style. Holistically, his style marks with Gothic elements, having strange and bizarre characters and unique buildings punctuated with mysterious happenings. In terms of word choice, sentence, literary devices, and rhetorical patterns, Poe has features not all writers can follow. Some of the unique features of his writing style are as follows.
Edgar Allan Poe’s Word Choice
In terms of diction or word choice, Poe displays mastery in using appropriate words at appropriate places. His context always matches his horror diction. Most of his narrators, too, demonstrate their haughtiness and pride in bizarre skills and consequential events. For example, his narrator in “The Tell-Tale Heart” shows it as follows. This passage shows Poe’s skill in using simple, plain, and direct diction to support his narrator’s cockiness and how he plays with words by presenting his contradictory nature through contradictory statements supplemented with appropriate words.
“It is impossible to say how first the idea entered my brain; but once conceived, it haunted me day and night. Object there was none. Passion there was none. I loved the old man. He had never wronged me. He had never given me insult. For his gold I had no desire. I think it was his eye! yes, it was this! He had the eye of a vulture—a pale blue eye, with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold; and so by degrees—very gradually—I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye forever.”
Edgar Allan Poe’s Sentence structure and Syntax
Edgar Allen Poe’s sentences are neither too short nor too long. They support his purpose of creating suspense and surprise at the expense of the contradictions that his sentences and syntax create. Sometimes, he resorts to very short or incomplete sentences and occasionally comes to using long and complicated sentences. The passage given below from his story “The Cask of Amontillado” demonstrates it. This passage shows his short, long, and broken sentences, showing the conversation between the narrator and his friend, Fortunato.
“My friend, no. It is not the engagement, but the severe cold with which I perceive you are afflicted. The vaults are insufferably damp. They are encrusted with nitre.”
“Let us go, nevertheless. The cold is merely nothing. Amontillado! You have been imposed upon. And as for Luchresi, he cannot distinguish Sherry from Amontillado.
Edgar Allan Poe’s Figurative Language
In terms of using figurative language, Poe surpasses his contemporaries and even other writers. He has used first-person narrator in his horror tales with impunity. His images are also terrible, while similes, metaphors, and tone, too, support his writing style. This stanza from his poem “A Dream within a Dream” shows his skill in using figurative language. Just note the use of connotation, denotation, metaphor, and tone mark his style of mystery and horror.
Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
Thus much let me avow—
You are not wrong, who deem
That my days have been a dream;
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone?
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.
Edgar Allan Poe’s Rhythm and Component Sounds
As Poe is the master of using horror and terror in his stories, his rhythm also marks this display of dark emotions. Whether it is a senseless murder, a loss of love, despair, or extreme loneliness, his rhythm matches the words as well as syntax. He sparingly uses onomatopoeia and sound devices to create an atmosphere that suits his thematic strands. This stanza from his poem “The Raven” shows it amply. These verses show how he uses end rhyme, internal rhyme, consonance, assonance, and dialogue to create an atmosphere of suspense and surprise for his readers. This makes up his rhythm through these sound devices.
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“‘Tis some visiter,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door—
Only this, and nothing more.
Edgar Allan Poe’s Rhetorical Patterns
Poe uses almost every other rhetorical device to make his writing style forceful. These patterns include comparison and contrast, repetition, anaphoras, and above all, rhetorical questions. This passage from his story “The Tell-Tale Heart” shows the use of repetition, pauses, and rhetorical questions that make the argument of his narrator forceful.
“True!—nervous—very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses—not destroyed—not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How, then, am I mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily—how calmly I can tell you the whole story.”
Edgar Allen Poe’s Themes
Most of the stories and poems are true to the style of Edgar Allen Poe. Not only through diction but also through style and themes, they demonstrate his objective of making his readers surprised and terrified. For example, “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “Black Cat” show the theme of horror and death, while the poem “The Raven” demonstrates his theme of horror and terror. Most of his stories and poems show his themes of lost loves, dark emotions, regret, and unexpected deaths.