Poe's Short Stories

An Uncanny Obsession: Reading Poe's "Berenice" College

Edgar Allen Poe is, perhaps, the most popular Gothic author in American history. Many of his stories show the darker side of humanity and provoke a sense of eeriness in the reader. But what exactly makes his stories creepy or uncanny? To answer this question one can look upon Sigmund Freud’s, “The Uncanny”, wherein he states that “what is ‘uncanny’ is frightening precisely because it is not known and familiar” (154). This helps to gain insight on what makes Poe’s works uncanny. In order to better understand Freud’s concepts, we will look upon Poe’s short story, “Berenice”, and apply the concepts of “The Uncanny”, which include: uncertainty, mental instability, and repression, in order to illustrate the methods Poe uses to create a creepy feeling in the reader.

Freud begins his argument by stating that the “essential factor in the production of the feeling of uncanniness [is] intellectual uncertainty” (154); a feeling that readers obtain through reading “Berenice” through Poe’s vagueness in the actions and character of the narrator, Egaeus. One questions the mental state of Egaeus in his quick and vague description of his mental disease and, ultimately, the narrator’s actions at the end of the story. This uncertainty however is...

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