Poe's Short Stories

Women in Transit

In his stories "Ligea," "Berenice," and "The Fall of the House of Usher," Poe shows a series of women in transit. All the women are in transit between death and life. The fact that this path is not one-way emphasizes the flux. More immediately, the narrator always catches these women in transit between physical places. The one glimpse we get of Madeline Usher comes when the lady "passed slowly through a remote portion of the apartment, and, without having noticed my presence, disappeared" (120). In "Berenice" the instance in which the titular character is actually present occurs when Berenice dashes into the room, bears her white teeth, and dashes out, never speaking a word (88). Of Ligea the narrator says, "she came and departed as a shadow" (104). The narrator almost never captures these women standing still or speaking a word. The perpetual state of physical transit seems to underscore the larger state of mortal flux in which these women exist.

Their perpetual flux also elucidates Poes notion of beauty. Each of these transitory women is the defining subject of stories that take "the most poetic topic in the world:" "the death of a beautiful women"...

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