Most literary works are also influenced by and based on the writer’s life experiences, which have affected their lives in some way. Authors also use art to attempt to convey meanings and interactions they have experienced, with the aim of mocking, advising, teaching, and entertaining their readers. Different writers present their interests in writing in a variety of ways. Authors such as Edgar Allan Poe choose tragedy as a literary form in order to express their thoughts and events. Edgar Allan Poe was considered a living tragedy himself, this due to how his works were sorrowful, full of horror and sadness and the way his life was coupled with so many misfortunes, brutality and unfortunate scenes as seen in one of his novels “The Fall of the House of Usher” where the author uses an unknown narrator to paint a picture of a house in disarray and turmoil with its occupants one after the other dying or suffering from mysterious illnesses.
Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher” is a short story first published in September 1839 in Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine. It was later revised in 1840 and one of Poe’s poem “The Haunted Palace” in cooperated into the short story. Poe’s inspiration for writing the story is based upon events in the Hezekiah Usher house, which was then located on the Usher estate which is now in modern Boston. The Usher estate was constructed in 1694 and then in 1830 it had either been torn down or relocated. The story revolves around the narrator who is summoned by Roderick Usher who does so claiming that he is ill and haunted by some form of spirit. Roderick and his sister are the only survivors in the usher family though they both die also as their house collapses at the end of the story.
The author employs and explores the use of tragedy in his story as he has done in most of his poems and books. The novel is a complete tragedy which culminates from Roderick’s sister Madeline who is sick from a mysterious disease, a disease the narrator calls catalepsy. Due to the nature of the disease, Roderick assumes that his sister is dead and due to the nature of the disease, the narrator is made to believe so and assists him to entomb her body in the underneath of the house. Things turn from bad to worse a week after the two had entombed Roderick’s sister who had actually not been dead, the narrator are faced by the horror of Madeline returning from the tomb and at the sight of this Roderick collapses and dies along with her sister with the narrator fleeing the house after the incident. The dominant theme explored therefore in the novel is that of death and horror (Poe, Lutkin, Dreamscape Media, & LLC, 2015).
Edgar Allan Poe uses tragedy in his novel to appeal to the audience’s emotions and succeeds in doing so since the story engages the audience in the narration since the horrific scenes depicted by the narrator in the story keeps the audience’s attention. The author therefore succeeds to communicate his intended message to the audience, managing to maintain and keep the attention of a reader in a story is an effective strategy that is why the novel is being read up to date. The story is relevant to today’s audiences since there is lack of use of tragedy as a style in modern day stories.
A closer look into the author’s background reveals that the author uses his life experiences in coming up with the poems and stories that he has published. The author is also known for his use of tragedy as an artistic strategy which in most cases has made his stories and poems being liked and criticized at the same time. From my point of view though his use of tragedy to communicate his intended message and to drive the story’s theme home to the audience is successful as this strategy appeals to the reader’s attention.
The Nightmare by Henry Fuseli
Henry Fuseli’s painting “The Nightmare” is considered one of the greatest English paintings. The painting was first brought to the public lame light in 1782 at an annual exhibition. Swiss-born Johann Heinrich Henry Fuseli, considered one of the creative artists in London was born in 1741 and was exposed to art and early drawing by his father Johann Caspar Fussli. Fuseli spend most of his life in the 1770s in Italy, studying the figure painting and it is after his return from Italy is when he came up with The Nightmare which remains one of his most prominent works. With regards with English Romanticism, Fuseli came up with this piece of art among other masterpieces during the peak of the so-called “Age of Reason”, this was a time when most of the people had stopped believing in the existences of witches and dark forces. His application of supernatural themes and a depiction of existence of dark forces in his painting was considered unique among the painting in England at that time.
In the painting, a sleeping woman with a with garment leans helplessly across her bed with her arms thrown below her and appears to have been in deep sleep. In addition, a demon or rather and apelike incubus is crouching on top of her body, the image also depicts a horse protruding from the curtains. All these artistic portrayal mirrors the picture title “night-mare”. The incubus/demon is portrayed to seem as if it is looking at the viewer, the demon on top of the woman’s body can be associated with the “Mara” an old English word used to mean an incubus or a demon which was used to represent a spirit sent to torment and possess or rather suffocate innocent sleepers. It is believed that the presence of the image of an on looking horrifying horse was inspired by Germanic tales of Renaissance which depicted legends who were being possessed and tormented by horses or witches.
The dominant themes that Fuseli tries to bring out in his painting are those of ‘sleep’ and dreams’. He uses symbolism as a technique in bringing out these themes. His use of imagery is however elusive to the reader as the artist does not reveal his intentions precisely why he used the imagery of a horse and a demon on top of the sleeping woman. The presence of a horse and an incubus reflects on the contemporary belief of a description of nightmares. Some of the observers of his painting believe that The Painting has something to do with a woman name Anna Landholdt, a woman Fuseli met in Europe a few years before coming up with this painting, according to this point of view, the sleeping woman in the painting is Landholdt, the painter Fuseli on the other hand is the incubus on top of her. Critics of the painting cite the picture’s depiction of sexuality (Fuseli, Stillman, & McGraw-Hill Book Company, 2013).
The relevance of the painting to today’s audiences and contemporary viewers is the fact that the painting is likely to make the viewer associate the presence of the donkey and the incubus on top of the woman with the nightmare that the woman is experiencing. The belief that demons do bring nightmares seems to be supported entirely in Fuseli’s painting “The Nightmare” thus its relevance and influence on today’s audience is significant since the audiences can relate the symbolism or imagery being portrayed in the painting.
Fuseli’s greatest strength as an artist and the reason why his piece of art “The Nightmare” was termed one of the greatest paintings in England and equally the really why he became one of the best English painters lies on his level of imagination and creativity in coming up with his paintings and drawings, his use of oil on canvas to come up with “The Nightmare” is considered creative and a reason for the uniqueness expressed in this painting. My reaction towards this piece of art is that it is a creative yet elusive kind of a painting which to me is what a painting ought to be in order to attract and capture the audience attention.
Fuseli, H., Stillman, D., & McGraw-Hill Book Company. (2013). The nightmare. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co.
Poe, E. A., Lutkin, C., Dreamscape Media, & LLC. (2015). The fall of the House of Usher. Chicago: Dreamscape Media, LLC.