The Occult in A Tale of the Ragged Mountains

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The Occult in A Tale of the Ragged Mountains  


In his collection of criticism on Poe's stories, Thompson discusses the use of the occult in "A Tale of the Ragged Mountains." He begins the article by explaining that this story might be the product of Poe's "fascination with, but detached attitudes toward, the pseudoscientific occultism of his age." He gives us some technical terms for the techniques that Poe uses in this story: "metempsychosis" is the transmigration of souls, and is the word that surfaces frequently throughout this discussion of "Ragged Mountains." First Thompson discusses the idea that Poe set up the tale in a very specific way; as he puts it, "Poe himself wove a web for the purpose of unraveling." He
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However, Thompson quotes Sidney E. Lind's ideas on the story. Lind believes that this is "not really a realistically handled tale of the supernatural, but ... a psychological tale based on the possibilities of occult science." Basically, he is suggesting that Poe is merely speculating about what his readers might want to read, and is not really writing a tale based on his beliefs of the supernatural.

    Thompson then goes on to say that Lind discusses "Ragged Mountains" as an "ambiguous but simple hoax." All of the characters in the story are deceived, as is the reader of the tale if he "misses the clues and takes the psychological tale as a supernatural one." Poe has written the tale as a psychological thriller, not an eerily spooky, other-worldly story. Also supporting this idea of the story being a hoax is the fact that there are numerous similarities between this story and one by Charles Brockden Brown titled "Edgar Huntley." The coincidences are too numerous to mention, but they are easily seen if one reads both of the story. By almost plagiarizing this tale, Thompson claims that Poe is "burlesquing, even parodying, Edgar Huntley." It appears as if Thompson is trying to suggest that this is not really a serious story. One final, interesting note is the presence of the hyena in the story. Where Edgar Huntley uses panthers in his story, Poe has used a hyena running
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