Poe's Humor


#poe #humor


The Spectacles can be considered as a double of “the Man who was Used up” as it has all its main characteristics.

Both stories are based on the search for truth and the final revelation. The revelations then have a common denominator of horror. When the narrator of The Spectacles discovers the mystery and realizes that he has married not a beautiful girl but an old caryatid, he experiences the same horror reaction as the narrator of The Man who was Used up in front of his mutilated "bundle". Horror seems to be an almost inseparable component of Poe's production.

The two stories are based on equally bizarre situations and incompatible with common sense. The character of The Spectacles is comical as it is the parody of the anxious young lover, all the more comical, however, if we think of who he is in love with. The author ridicules his impatience, especially in his attitudes towards his friend Talbot. For example: the young man goes to visit the friend who promised to introduce him to his beloved. Not finding him at home, he claims it is "mathematically impossible" that his friend has left. This is an obvious satire of the stubbornness of those who love. The young man's notable myopia is also highly comical.

The beginning of The Spectacles, according to a technique that we now know as Poe's, acquires reverberation from the final epiphany. The story begins like this:

Many years ago it was the fashion to ridicule the idea of love at first sight.

At this point, the story seems set as a refutation of the critical attitude towards love at first sight. In reality it is just the opposite. That love based on sight will prove to be founded on nothing, because the senses deceive.

The comic of names is also present in The Spectacles, in the funny sequence of consonances of the French genealogy of the protagonist: Froissart, Croissart, Voissart, Moissart. In addition to the comic of the names, we find in this tale a type of comic that will later be adopted by many of the future American Literary Comedians. It is the comedy aroused by the imperfect learning of a foreign language. Madame Lalande's letter is written in a mixture of very incorrect English and French, both from the point of view of grammar and vocabulary, and from that of spelling.

Monsieur Simpson vill pardonne me for not compose de butefulle tong of his contree so vell as might. It is only de late I am arrive, and not yet ave the opportunity for to l'etudier ...

In summary, also in this story, as in The Man who was Used Up, there are various levels of comedy, and precisely the comic of the situation, that of the character and that of the language. However The Spectacles has a characteristic of its own, entirely literary and remarkably appreciable: even the environmental notations are used in a comic function. In the story a whole play of particular lights alternates which will be very important for the final revelation. The various encounters between the near-sighted lover and the decrepit Lalande always take place while “the sweet shadows of twilight” gather around the two, or while “a very pleasant twilight” reigns. The nearsighted person never gets the chance to see the woman well. Only at the moment of the final epiphany will there be full light.

The comic mechanism is triggered when we realize that what appears to be a simple notation on the twilight by a languid lover is instead a clue that the author drops here and there, strictly functional to the plot.