9 Poe's Feminine Ideal Karen Weekes Poe's Vision of the Feminine Ideal Appears Throughout His Work, in His Poetry and Short Stories, and His Critical Essays, Most Notably “the Philosophy of Composition. ” Especially

6318 Words Oct 22nd, 2010 26 Pages
Poe's feminine ideal
Poe's vision of the feminine ideal appears throughout his work, in his poetry and short stories, and his critical essays, most notably “The Philosophy of Composition. ” Especially in his poetry, he idealizes the vulnerability of woman, a portrayal that extends into his fiction in stories such as “Eleonora” and “The Fall of the House of Usher. ” In these tales, and even moreso in “Morella” and “Ligeia, ” the heroines' unexpected capacities for life beyond the grave indicate that females may have more strength and initiative than the delicate models of his verse. The most significant trait of his ideal, however, is her role as emotional catalyst for her partner. The romanticized woman is much more
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But because death also entails physiological decay, the beauty of the just-departed contains an element of terror, since the passage of time implies a subsequent and inevitable mutation to loathsomeness…. The dying woman became a sign of her own fate, and her dissolution presented a spectacle at once irresistible and unbearable. 3
One is immediately reminded of the scene from “Ligeia” in which the body of Rowena revivifies and then collapses back into death, each cycle falling farther into decay. The vacillation between flushed, warm cheeks and the shrunken-lipped, clammy corpse is horrific because of the stark contrast between these states. The repugnant aspects of death usually happen beyond the narrator's ken; his poetic ladies are already entombed, and he is informed of, rather than called to witness, the non-consumptive “deaths” of the wasting Madeline Usher and Berenice, whose emaciated body, “hollow temples, ” and “thin and shrunken lips” revolt the narrator almost as much as her teeth do (P&T, 230). In other cases where the female falls ill without lessening her beauty (“Morella, ” “Ligeia, ” “Eleonora”), he is at the bedside of his wife for her last breath.
Serving chiefly as inspiration for the narrator's melancholy experience of “Beauty” in the