The goal of psychoanalysis is to help us overcome our psychological problems. Mostly its focus is on the patterns of our destructive behaviors. Because the repetition of these behaviors reveals the existence of some psychological problems that influence our mentality (Tyson 12).
Psychological criticism analyzes the minds and thoughts of the author and the characters of a literary text. It relates psychological behaviors and theories to those within the text which express the characters’ desires, personality and feelings. The goal of psychoanalysis therapy is to release suppressed emotions and experiences. In other words, the aim of psychoanalysis therapy is to make the unconscious conscious.
Psychoanalytic criticism can play a significant role in a better understanding of a literary text. Knowing psychology enables us to delve into hidden layers of a text and hidden layers of characters’ personalities and unconscious. Characters’ emotional behaviors reveal about their psychological states. Psychology uncovers author’s hidden motivations; in some cases, the author’s personality gets revealed in the course of analyzing a text using psychology.
Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) is among the writers whose stories are very suitable for a psychoanalytic criticism. The impact of Poe’s own life is completely traceable on his works. His life is the most distorted of any of the major American writers of his generation (Norton 694).
Edgar Allan Poe was born in 1809 in Boston. His parents were travelling and professional actors. Very soon the father abandoned the family and after that Poe’s mother died when he was 2 years old. He was never formally adopted but he was taken into home of John Allan who was a Tabaco merchant. A strong bond created between him and Mrs. Allan who had lavished affection upon him. But his relationship with Allan himself was never secure. Although he was raised and educated as the son of aristocrats, he had no legal rights as Allan’s heir. He was sent to university with a small allowance to cover necessary expenses. He was forced to leave university when Allan refused to pay his gambling debts. Then he tried to regain Allan’s favor but he couldn’t. Their relationship got more and more deteriorated after the death of Mrs. Allan. In 1835 he married his cousin Virginia Clemm but in 1842 he got deprived from her due to her illness. After her death he was twice engaged to be married. Before his second intended marriage, on a business trip to North, he was found dead on the sidewalk in rain (Adventure in American Literature 158-153).
All these frustrations and discomfitures had a direct influence on his works. Poe is one of those people who is obsessed with the concept of death and this fact emanates from his lifestyle. Leading a life saturated with torment and misery is the most important reason for becoming a melancholic person and someone who constantly ponders about death.
Mostly we deal with concepts of death and loss in his stories. The death that he faced during his life is the cause of his preoccupation with the subject of death (Pruette 379). His mind was not only preoccupied with death but with violent death with murder (387).
“The Tell-Tale Heart” is one of the famous Poe’s short stories. This story is a prime example of his works displaying the elements of death. The characters of this story are the narrator and the old man who go unnamed. Due to some unexplained and insane reasons the story circles around the narrator’s desire to murder the old man. He continually insists on being sane but by murdering the old man, he ends up proving the exact opposite that he is crazy and insane.
The present article attempts to analyze these psychological problems and also to reveal the reasons for these abnormalities. In particular, it focuses on the concept of death and death phobia showing how this disorder can end in murdering someone. In other words, death phobic persons may use death as a weapon to get relieved from the terror of death.