The unnamed protagonist of "The Pit and the Pendulum" who is forced to undergo torture during the Inquisition. He is somewhat given to frequent fainting, but by and large manages to surmount his fear and maintain his sanity and logical abilities.
General Lasalle ("The Pit and the Pendulum")
The leader of the French forces who defeats the Inquisition in Toledo and ultimately saves the protagonist.
The Inquisition ("The Pit and the Pendulum")
A group of unnamed and largely unseen figures that is responsible for the trial and torture of the narrator.
Prince Prospero ("The Masque of the Red Death")
The carefree prince whose country is hit by the Red Death. He chooses to ignore the disease and invites a group of healthy nobles to hide from the Red Death's ravages with him in an abbey. After several months, he holds a lavish masked ball for the noblemen. Prospero is afraid of death and is angry when it appears in his vicinity.
Courtiers ("The Masque of the Red Death")
A group that follows Prince Prospero into hiding when their country is hit by the Red Death. They are afraid of death and party wildly to forget their fears.
Figure of the Red Death ("The Masque of the Red Death")
A silent figure that appears and brings the Red Death to the courtiers who have been partying while in hiding.
Narrator ("The Tell-Tale Heart")
The murderer of the old man who claims he is hypersensitive rather than insane. He cannot stand the old man's eye, which prompts the killing. Although he goes about the murder very carefully and systematically, he is driven to distraction by the sound of the dead man's beating heart.
Old man ("The Tell-Tale Heart")
An unsuspecting man who treats the narrator of "The Tell-Tale Heart" well, but nevertheless drives his companion to murder.
Policemen ("The Tell-Tale Heart")
The three men who come to the murderer's house to investigate a shriek heard in the night. Unsuspecting, they sit down with the murderer for a chat before the latter shows his hand.
Fortunato ("The Cask of Amontillado")
A man who has done some wrong to Montresor. He has a weakness for wine and will do anything to see a rare vintage.
Montresor ("The Cask of Amontillado")
The narrator of "The Cask of Amontillado," who feels that he has been insulted by Fortunato and vows revenge. He takes advantage of Fortunato's weakness for wine and leads him into the Montresor family catacombs.
Luchesi ("The Cask of Amontillado")
An unseen character in "The Cask of Amontillado" whom Montresor claims may wish to taste the amontillado. Fortunato disparages his intelligence and his knowledge of wine.
Narrator ("The Black Cat")
A once-gentle lover of animals who comes under the influence of alcohol and begins treating his cat Pluto cruelly, setting off a chain of events in which he turns increasingly immoral and possibly insane, until he finally becomes a murderer.
Wife ("The Black Cat")
A kind and moral person who marries the narrator of "The Black Cat" and defends the new cat from his violence.
Pluto ("The Black Cat")
A large, intelligent black cat who is ill-treated by his owner. The replacement cat, whom the narrator hates, bears a distinct resemblance to Pluto except for a patch of white fur on its chest, and it leads to the narrator's downfall.
Policemen ("The Black Cat")
A group of men who come to investigate the narrator's house. They are not suspicious until they hear the cat's cry.
C. Auguste Dupin ("The Murders in the Rue Morgue" & "The Purloined Letter")
A master of analysis who solves crimes by examining everything and by placing himself in the mind of the criminal.
Narrator ("The Murders in the Rue Morgue" & "The Purloined Letter")
A close friend of C. Auguste Dupin who is intelligent but does not have the same insight as his associate. He chronicles the mysteries in a way that displays admiration for his friend's abilities.
Madame L'Espanaye ("The Murders in the Rue Morgue")
The older woman who is found with her throat deeply slit and her body mangled. She has a daughter named Camille L'Espanaye.
Camille L'Espanaye ("The Murders in the Rue Morgue")
The daughter of Madame L'Espanaye who is found strangled and stuffed into a chimney in a double murder.
Adolphe Le Bon ("The Murders in the Rue Morgue")
A clerk who delivers four thousand francs to the L'Espanayes three days before their brutal murder. He is arrested despite a lack of evidence, and Dupin chooses to help him because he has in the past done a favor for Dupin.
Sailor ("The Murders in the Rue Morgue")
The owner of the Ourang-Outang who is unable to stop the animal from brutally killing the L'Espanayes. He is a Frenchman from a Maltese ship, and he shows up at Dupin's door in answer to Dupin's ad seeking the owner of a lost Ourang-Outang.
Monsieur G. ("The Murders in the Rue Morgue" & "The Purloined Letter")
The Prefect of the Parisian Police. He is not as imaginative as Dupin and occasionally relies on the detective to solve his more difficult cases - although he is not always appreciative of the help.
Minister D. ("The Purloined Letter")
A clever and bold minister who is also a government official. He steals a confidential letter and uses it for political blackmail. He hides the letter, and the Parisian police, led by Monsieur G., are utterly unable to locate it.
In love with the dead Ligeia, whose beauty and intelligence he so admired (although he cannot remember details of how they met), the devastated narrator marries Rowena but can only dream of his first wife.
The beautiful and learned first wife of the narrator, Ligeia had an outwardly calm appearance that hid her fierce passions. She was tall and slender, with black hair, brilliant black eyes, and pale skin. She decried the injustice of death and believed that man only dies because his will is not strong enough to prevent his passing.
Rowena Trevanion ("Ligeia")
The second wife of the narrator, unlike her predecessor Ligeia in that she is blonde-haired and blue-eyed. She does not love her husband, and when she falls ill, she becomes afraid of unseen apparitions in the bridal chamber.
Narrator ("MS. Found in a Bottle")
After the narrator and the Old Swede survive a storm that nearly capsizes their ship, he is thrown overboard onto a mysterious ship that is heading south. Normally somewhat prone to worrying, he begins to feel excitement at what may be his destruction and writes an account of his journey which he places in a bottle and casts into the sea.
Old Swede ("MS. Found in a Bottle")
The other survivor of the storm. He is superstitious but hopeful, and dies in the second storm when the black ship appears.
Captain ("MS. Found in a Bottle")
The captain of a ship traveling from Java to the Sunda islands who disregards the narrator's worries about an upcoming storm.
The Crew ("MS. Found in a Bottle")
The ancient sailors who run the ship heading toward the South Pole. They speak a foreign language, and their eagerness defeats their despair as they come closer to discovering the secrets of the southern region.
William Wilson ("William Wilson")
The narrator, who has an inherited predilection for being temperamental and resents the other William Wilson for being able to keep up with him so effortlessly and for being so similar to him. He falls increasingly into vice but is always stopped by the appearance of his shadowy other figure, and eventually he grows furious enough to attack his follower.
William Wilson (the other) ("William Wilson")
A boy who shares his name, birthday, and appearance with the narrator. He seems to enjoy imitating the narrator and eventually begins to follow him, appearing only when the narrator is about to partake in vice.
Dr. Bransby ("William Wilson")
The pastor and principal of the school in "William Wilson" who has a double role as the reverend and as the stern ruler of the school.
Glendinning ("William Wilson")
A somewhat foolish student at Oxford, from a family who has recently joined the nobility. He is trapped by William's gambling schemes and nearly brought to financial ruin.
Pedro ("The Oval Portrait")
The narrator's valet. He brings his master to an abandoned chateau so that the injured man can spend the night inside.
Narrator ("The Oval Portrait")
Injured, he is brought to an abandoned chateau to spend the night, but he stays awake because he is entranced by the portraits. After a while, he notices a particularly life-like portrait and eagerly reads its description.
Painter ("The Oval Portrait")
The painter of "The Oval Portrait." The only thing he loves as much as his wife is his art. He is moody and passionate and fails to notice that his painting of his wife is slowly sapping the life away from her as she models for him.
Painter's wife ("The Oval Portrait")
Loving, beautiful, and obedient, she sits for her husband's portrait of her even though she hates his art for competing with his love for her. However, she does not complain, even when the act of painting slowly saps her of life.
P. ("The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar")
The narrator of "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar," he is interested in what occurs when one tries to mesmerize a patient on the cusp of death, so he writes to his dying friend Valdemar and asks Valdemar to be his test subject.
M. Ernest Valdemar ("The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar")
A man who is generally not strongly influenced by hypnotism. He is dying from tuberculosis and agrees to allow P. to mesmerize him on the edge of death.
Doctors D. and F. ("The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar")
The attending physicians at M. Valdemar's deathbed who decide to observe P.'s attempts to arrest death by using mesmerism.
Theodore L. ("The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar")
A medical school student who accompanies P. and hears Valdemar give permission for the mesmerism experiment. He faints when the hypnotized Valdemar announces that he is dead.
Narrator ("The Premature Burial")
The narrator's knowledge of past premature burials and his fear of death lead him to become cataleptic, which further increases his paranoia until an unnerving experience shakes him out of his fear.
Narrator ("A Descent into the Maelström")
Somewhat scared of heights, he follows the old man to the top of a mountain, where he listens to his guide's story of the Maelström.
Old man ("A Descent into the Maelström")
A man of nerve and intelligence. He and his two brothers are accustomed to braving the Maelström to fish, until one day when a hurricane traps them in the whirlpool. He manages to escape, but has aged visibly.
Older brother ("A Descent into the Maelström")
The older brother of the old man, he is driven mad with terror after the death of their youngest brother and refuses to let go of the boat and be saved with his middle brother.
Narrator ("The Gold Bug")
A friend of Legrand who accompanies Legrand and Jupiter on the search for a treasure despite his suspicions that his friend has lost his sanity.
Legrand ("The Gold Bug")
An intelligent but somewhat misanthropic man who appears to have lost his sanity after being bitten by a gold bug, but is actually on the scent of a pirate's treasure. To find it, he uses his puzzle-solving abilities to decipher the secrets on a scrap of parchment.
Jupiter ("The Gold Bug")
Legrand's patois-speaking manservant who is obedient and fiercely loyal to Legrand but is given to exaggeration and worry.
Poe’s Short Stories Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Poe’s Short Stories is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
Poe likes to make his protagonists mentally unstable and unreliable. Using them for point of view lets the reader attempt to make sense of what they are reading as well as figure out what their motivations really are. The narrator in Tell Tale...
It seams that every time the speaker tells us something, he sounds crazy. The first few sentences of the story are more than enough to tell us that the narrator is an unreliable crazy person who suffers from delusions of grandeur and acute...