You are rich, respected, admired, beloved; you are happy, as once I was" (92). This statement is significant because it reveals Montresor's sense of revenge as well as another motive for his actions - his health. It would seem that Montresor blames Fortunato for his ill health - whatever that may be. Montresor has no angst regarding what he will do. This is evident when Fortunato assures Montresor that a cough will not kill him and Montresor answers, "True -- true" (93). Here we see the depth of Montresor's madness because he is willing to go to any lengths to commit murder. Even as Fortunato realizes what has happened to him and is begging for mercy, Montresor has already accomplished his task and we can almost see him dusting his hands. To validate his madness, Montresor exclaims, "In pace requiescat!" (95). Even after Fortunato is buried behind the wall, shrieking, Montresor feels no remorse or sympathy. His revenge is greater than his conscience and that is what makes him mad. It is not just a story about one man's murder but it also a story of another man's madness.
In "The Fall of the House of Usher," we are introduced to a narrator that appears to be sane at the beginning of the story. However, what we learn from this story is the power of the unconscious mind. The unusual aspect of this tale is how Roderick's madness shifts to the narrator. The motivating factor is the burial of Madeline, after which the narrator begins to experience the "full power of such feelings" (946). From this statement, we can see how the madness has slowly crept into the narrator's being. He does not sleep well and cannot "reason off the nervousness which had dominion over me" (946). The madness is intensified when both Roderick and the narrator begin to hear sounds that they believe are Madeline. While in the previous stories, we the narrator's have had an underlying reason for their madness, it seems tat the narrator in this tale is a victim of circumstance and a person that is easily influenced by his surroundings.
In "William Wilson," we see madness take a psychotic form. Poe creates perfect tension with Wilson and the narrator being opposites at the beginning of the story. What we discover, however, is that the narrator is very much like Wilson. This is our fist clue that the narrator is experiencing some mental instability. The fact that he cannot recognize any of the similarities of the two characters is utterly amazing. Wilson is the narrator's conscious as well as his double and his main purpose seems to be reprimanding the narrator for his bad behavior. As a result, the narrator always feels contention toward Wilson, a sign that he is unwilling to accept the fact that his behavior is immoral. The first confrontation between doubles demonstrates the narrator's mental imbalance. His only emotion is feeling "angry with him for bearing the name, and doubly disgusted with the name because a stranger bore it" (Poe William Wilson 29). He also thinks that it is simply a coincidence that they were born on the same day. We see the narrator's true state of mind when he thinks that Wilson's part to play was to "perfect an imitation of myself... In both words and actions; and most admirably did he play his part" (30). While the narrator has overwhelming evident that he is Wilson, he still cannot believe it. It never even enters his mind. Wilson's rebukes are received with "repugnance which gained strength as I grew in years" (30). Even when the narrator sees Wilson in bed, he is terrified but not convinced that Wilson is his conscious. While his "whole spirit became possessed with an objectless yet intolerable horror" (31), he still refuses to consider what this character means in his life. He reinforces our suspicions about his madness when he runs away. In this story, the madness perhaps the most frightening of all because the narrator is the closest to being sane; however, he is evil and immoral and does not want a conscious. We associate this trait with serial killers and other that commit heinous crimes.
Poe, Edgar Allan. "Ligeia." The Complete Tales of Mystery and Imagination. Minneapolis: Amaranth Press. 1981. pp. 132-42.
The Black Cat." The Essential Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe. New York: Barnes and Noble Classics, 2004.