Herman Melville: Poems

Obsession College

For Poe, Hawthorne, and Melville, obsession is a central theme for their short stories. In Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart,” the narrator expresses a negative obsession for the pale-blue eye “with film over it” of an elderly man, but also an obsession with watches and clocks. In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “A Birthmark,” a young scientist expresses a negative obsession with a birthmark on his new wife’s face. In Herman Melville’s “Bartleby, The Scrivener,” Bartleby demonstrates an obsession with passivity, seemingly using it as a protest of life, or his own mortality. In each of these short stories, obsession leads to death, arguably murder. Poe, Hawthorne, and Melville illustrate how all obsessions are destructive to human relationships and the self.

Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell Tale Heart” follows the speaker’s obsession with the old man using the theme of time. The speaker clearly elaborates the amount of time he spends obsessing over the old man’s eye, supporting the idea that the speaker might be more obsessed with time and the old man’s representation of mortality as an elderly person. When the speaker describes his attempts to murder the old man he describes, “It took me an hour to place my whole head within the opening...

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