Contents
  Notes &
Permissions
  Preface & Acknowledg-
ments
1:
Introduction
2: Horror in Literature and the Literature of Horror
3: The Marvelous Horror Thriller
4:  The Fantastic/Uncanny Horror Thriller
5: The Aesthetics of the Horror Thriller: Stoker's Dracula
6: The Pure Fantastic Tale of Terror
7:  Anticlosure: Poe's "Ligeia"
8: The Entrapped Critic:
Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher"
9: The Master's Trap:
James's The Turn of the Screw 
10: Escape: An Aesthetics of Terror Fantasy
11: Terror and the Sublime
Sources
Index

 
 
Chapter Two
Horror in Literature and the Literature of Horror

 

I
 

     THIS living hand, now warm and capable
     Of earnest grasping, would, if it were cold
     And in the icy silence of the tomb,
     So haunt thy days and chill thy dreaming nights
     That thou wouldst wish thine own heart dry of blood
     So in my veins red life might stream again,
     And thou be conscience-calm'd -- see here it is --
     I hold it towards you.
                            John Keats, Untitled
 

     This poem illustrates nicely a way in which the effect of horror may be subordinated to the larger overall effect of a work of literature. Read naively as a direct message from poet to reader, it is chilling. I am asked to imagine the poet's hand held out to me as dead and then to touch it, to imagine the touch of a stranger's corpse. But, of course, this is not what a more careful reading of the poem reveals as its probable intention. A more careful reading creates an implied speaker and an implied listener. The speaker addresses an apparently uncooperative beloved with a sort of last chance. "You spurn me now, but when I am dead, your conscience will haunt you, and you will give all your blood to bring me again to life." By creating these personae between real reader and author's text, the real reader constructs an implied reader. The real reader becomes the proper interpreter of the poem and plays the role of overhearer of a somewhat unconventional moment between lovers, imagining the possible settings and circumstances of this speech. As this concretion becomes complete, the potential mild terror of the possible naive reading becomes a rhetorical ploy of which the implied listener is the object. Not only is the experience deflected from both the real and implied reader, but it is made merely a part of a concretion rather than the effect of the whole, as it would have been in a naive reading.

     In this book I distinguish between terror and horror in the following way. Terror is the fear that harm will come to oneself. Horror is the emotion one feels in anticipating and witnessing harm coming to others for whom one cares. Thus, a naive reading of Keats's poem might arouse some degree of terror in the reader, while the more appropriate reading could arouse a mild degree of horror on behalf of both speaker and listener. This example and this distinction should make clear that much of what we experience as horror in literature is only distantly related to what we experience in tales of terror proper. We tend to think of a work as a tale of terror when horror and terror dominate it. Horror (in my definition) and pity are, after all, primary emotional responses to classical tragedy. We easily recall examples of moments of terror for certain characters and moments of horror and pity in spectators. Oedipus cries out upon recognizing himself:

     O Light, may I look upon you for the last time!
     I, Oedipus,
     Oedipus, damned in his birth, in his marriage damned,
     Damned in the blood he shed with his own hand!

Mad Othello kisses the sleeping Desdemona and says:

               One more, one more!
     Be thus when thou art dead, and I will kill thee,
     And love thee after. One more and that's the last!
     So sweet was ne'er so fatal. I must weep,
     But they are cruel tears. This sorrow's heavenly;
     It strikes where it doth love.

In more modern tragic works we find similar moments of horror. Captain Ahab cries, "From hell's heart I stab at thee . . . let me tow to pieces, while still chasing thee, though tied to thee, thou damned whale! Thus I give up the spear!" In a work much closer to the tale of terror, Katherine Anne Porter's "Noon Wine," Mr. Thompson writes the unbearable truth in his suicide note: "It was Mr. Homer T. Hatch who came to do wrong to a harmless man. He caused all this trouble and he deserved to die but I am sorry it was me who had to kill him." The examples are numerous and various, but in every case of this kind, terror is exclusively the experience of characters in the work and horror is part of a larger response of pity for these characters and/or their victims.

     When terror and horror are subordinate effects contributing to a more inclusive effect of a concretion, we are rather distant from the tale of terror. Though the moments I have recalled are as chilling as anything in literature, they are not by any means the defining moments of their works. These works were not made to leave us with the unmitigated or unqualified experiences of those moments. The terrors of these works never seriously threaten to dissolve aesthetic distance for a competent reader. We will see that uncanny tales of terror are not much different from these works in which horror and terror form subordinate parts. To illustrate this, let us look with some care at several works that might be placed along a continuum from works in which horror and terror are major but still not dominant parts to those in which such effects do dominate but that do not yet make use of the fantastic. We will begin with two modern works: William Faulkner's Sanctuary (1931) and Jerzy Kosinski's The Painted Bird (1965).
 
 
 

II

     In Sanctuary, Faulkner directly attacks the implied reader, forcing the real reader to endure psychological pain to fill the role of implied reader and to enter into an aesthetic experience of the novel. He represents horrible events, creates and violates conventional expectations, manipulates point of view, orders the representation of events and of the world in a disorienting way, and presents a virtually constant stream of powerfully disturbing images. Faulkner terrorizes the implied reader with the purpose of creating a reading experience analogous to the main characters' experiences of their world. The discomfort, even pain, of playing the role of implied reader is made to be like the pain of living in the fictional world of Temple Drake and Popeye. This technique is necessary because these characters are so deficient either in moral qualities or in perception as to be beyond sympathy and understanding for a reader who does not fully appreciate the world that produces them and their strategies of living.

     In the major elements of the story and in its use of conventions, Sanctuary intends to shock. The central events include the corncob sodomy of a teenage girl, teenage nymphomania, mob sodomy, and immolation. These and other horrors are presented in ways calculated to maximize shock: the delayed revelation of the corncob and of the Popeye-Temple-Red relationship, the joker's revelation of how Lee Goodwin died, and Popeye's death by the hand of another joker. These events take place in an atmosphere of despair; few characters are interested in preventing the horrors, and no one effectively opposes them. Conventions of humor are violated, promising relief only to lead the reader back to the blackness that dominates color in the novel: the boys at the Negro brothel, Red spilling out of his coffin, Uncle Bud vomiting, and Popeye swinging on a punch line. Gothic conventions are also violated, as Elizabeth Kerr has shown (104-6). The reader is promised a romance that will embody an idealized mythic action, such as the rescue of a fair maiden. The novel violates this expectation and reveals an incomprehensible world where villainy may be accidental and heroism in any conventional sense impossible.

     Faulkner further disorients the implied reader by manipulating point of view and using ambiguous tableaux, thus stressing a disturbing disorder in ordinary events and objects. Both Horace and the implied reader are presented at the novel's opening with moments of apparent significance that obscure point of view, do not have clear causal or thematic connection, and eschew the examination of motive. Like Benbow, the reader is forced to fill in these gaps or accept these events and actions as pointless. At the center of this problem is Popeye, whose appearance and behavior seem outside rationality. Why is he wearing city clothes with the trousers rolled and muddy? If his watch is loose in his pocket, what is at the end of his platinum watch chain? Why does a rich man carry a dollar pocket watch? And why does he squat and stare at Horace for two hours? Faulkner teases with these and other details, drawing the implied reader into a world that will not yield to his desire to understand it. This world is full of mystery. Characters materialize in scenes rather than entering them. The animate often appears inanimate and vice versa. Faulkner surprises and shocks the reader with abrupt transitions, unexpected transformations, disorienting descriptions, and unexplained gestures.

     Perhaps the most pervasively disturbing technique Faulkner uses is to present the implied reader with a constant heavy barrage of repulsive, shocking, and violent images of entrapment, meaningless motion, silent screams, the world dying like beached fish, death in life, and sudden death. One of the most elaborate and pervasive of these groups of images is that of sudden death. It is presented most fully in describing the crime of a minor character who is in jail with Lee Goodwin, the man falsely accused of raping Temple Drake. The murderer is a Negro "who had killed his wife; slashed her throat with a razor so that, her whole head tossing further and further backward from the bloody regurgitation of her bubbling throat, she ran out of the cabin door and for six or seven steps up the quiet moonlit lane" (110). Here is clearly a gratuitous assault on reader sensibility, for this detail is unnecessary except as part of a project to cause the implied reader pain. This image is repeated in multiple ways almost page by page in the novel, connecting most of the other groups of such images. There are images of decapitation, stabbing, and threats with knives on at least a dozen different pages in this novel of about 300 pages. Images of the regurgitation of blood including bleeding wounds appear on seventeen different occasions. Images of drinking blood and eating human flesh appear six times. Repulsive spitting, phlegm, and drooling appear at least eight times. Vomiting and the impulse to vomit appear at least eleven times. Such a rough count only suggests the pervasiveness of these images. Their intensity may be suggested by the places where they tend to center. When Temple is raped, she repeats a version of the murder, screaming silently, "voiding the words like hot silent bubbles into the bright silence" (99). This set of images is placed in a context of suggestion by Horace's first brush with Popeye: "He smells black, Benbow thought; he smells like that black stuff that ran out of Bovary's mouth and down upon her bridal veil when they raised her head" (7).

     It is difficult to exaggerate the frequency of such images and their echoes in Sanctuary. The reader can hardly turn a page without encountering an image of violence, filth, threat of pain, or death. To play the reader-role offered by this novel is to feel moment by moment something of the terror its characters experience.

     Why does Faulkner want the reader to share this experience so fully? A glance at two of the main characters, Temple and Popeye, makes this fairly clear. By almost [most] any conventional standard of judgment, they are despicable. The sexually impotent Popeye rapes Temple with a corncob, then takes her to Memphis where he sets her up in a brothel and observes her sexual relations with Red, a local bouncer. Temple enjoys this, except that she resents the restraint on her freedom. It may be hard to conceive why Faulkner would want his readers to care about such characters, especially when the rather noble Ruby Lamar and the well-meaning Horace Benbow are so clearly good, to some degree, according to conventional standards of judgment. The answer appears to be that Faulkner really does not wish to provide a Gothic experience in which more or less purely evil monsters are temporarily loosed in the world, as Dracula is in Stoker's novel. Temple and Popeye are neither supernatural nor symbolic. Rather, they are the quintessential products of their world. They are versions of what we would all be if the forces operating in this fictional world could completely replace traditional moral ideals. According to Lewis Simpson, these two are products of a "historicist" view of history in which events are a mere succession without intrinsic or transcendent meaning (132). Faulkner seems to want the reader to understand this connection, to see that Temple and Popeye are human beings like us, with desires like ours, but without souls, without any commitments to values or any understanding of how to make such commitments. They are arrested in loveless childhoods.

     Faulkner uses other means to minimize the natural distance between the reader and such morally empty characters. He carefully sets Temple up as a more or less innocent victim before her rape. He prepares for her shocking transformation after the rape both by showing her potential for such transformation and by making the experience of the implied reader parallel with her experience of terror at the Frenchman's before the rape. Therefore, when the reader sees the transformation, he is in the best position to see her, even then, as a victim. Faulkner uses the last chapter to "renovate" Popeye, a strategy that has offended critics who believe Popeye is a representation of "pure evil." Faulkner has prepared for this, however, by renovating Temple in advance, so to speak, and by carefully setting up a series of images associating Popeye with Temple, as a childlike victim of seemingly impersonal forces. The last chapter makes clear that Popeye, in his attraction to women like Reba, Ruby, his mother, and Temple, has been pursuing meaning. When other men find a woman valuable, Popeye takes her if he can. His childhood experiments with particularly vital live animals further suggest that he is seeking vitality -- in Requiem for a Nun his last name is given as Vitelli. Whatever it is that makes other people want to live, he wants. However, he is never able to find the secret of "using" those "objects" when he gets them, hence his despairing acceptance of death in the novel's last chapter. Popeye emerges as a man in search of meaning at the most minimal level, but deprived of the equipment to succeed at any level. Faulkner wants the reader to pity these characters; he improves his chance of succeeding by terrorizing the implied reader.

     In Sanctuary, the process of creating the implied reader is at least mildly terrifying, for it involves subjection to disorientation, shock, and constant repetition of the ugly, repulsive, violent, and murderous. However, undergoing this experience helps to sensitize the implied reader to the terrifying quality of everyday existence for the main characters. Thus, terror becomes a primary means by which Faulkner creates a meaningful fictional work about characters who are extreme victims of a culture that has lost faith in any spiritual reality. Terrorizing the implied reader becomes a means of reaching across the distance between the reader and unsympathetic main characters, to draw them together.

     In The Painted Bird, Kosinski uses terror in a similar way to establish a high degree of identification between the implied reader and the child protagonist. This identification helps to sustain empathy through the last chapters, when the child becomes monstrous, and to give great significance to his final act of recovering his lost voice.

     Kosinski treats his boy narrator somewhat in the way Faulkner treats Temple Drake, except that the boy is unequivocally innocent when he is abandoned in a world of terror and the comparative lawlessness of Nazi-occupied territory. Even though the boy is narrating his own story from a fairly distant prospect, even though a key element of this retrospective view is a gift for metaphor that calls attention to itself by the incongruities it suggests, and even though the narrative develops with the intensity and pace of a fairy tale that stretches credibility, still the implied reader is required to hover spellbound over the events of the narrative. Kosinski's aim is to so completely erase distance between the implied reader and the boy as actor that they will become almost indistinguishable. This purpose is revealed in the visionary quality of the earliest horrors: the deaths of the pigeon, the squirrel, Marta, Ludmilla, and the carpenter; the sufferings of the ploughboy, the painted birds, Lehk, and the lost horse. These events fall upon the boy's soul, and there is little indication of how they affect him. This is the primary gap or blank that the reader is required to fill, for the reader must construct the impressions these events make and, to do so, must pour some version of himself into the "empty vessel" of the boy's personality.

     The construction of the boy's inner self is the central function of the implied reader in the first one-third of the novel. This construction does not proceed without qualifications, but these are few by comparison with earlier novels of similar form, such as Great Expectations. These qualifications tend to come from what little one is able to perceive about the speaking voice. The boy learns the tricks of survival. He discovers and tests some of his special powers as a "Gypsy Jew bastard" among highly superstitious "Aryan" people. He learns to fear death and to value his vision. But the core of his experience is his wonder at the world he sees, conveyed in the metaphors he constructs from his mature perspective and in the clarity of his memory. Of Marta's burning he recalls, "The flames sparkled like a Christmas tree, and burst into a high blaze, forming a peaked hat of fire on Marta's head" (9). When the rats devour the carpenter, the boy remembers them fighting for pieces of the body, "panting, twitching their tails, their teeth gleeming under half-opened snouts, their eyes reflecting the daylight as if they were the beads of a rosary" (55).

     The middle third of the novel is inaugurated with the boy's experiencing empathy, which leads him to understand and desire justice, to feel responsibility, and finally to take actions to secure justice for himself. His attempt (and failure) to save the injured horse he finds shows him for the first time identifying with the sufferings of another, filling the dumb blank of the horse's consciousness with his own awareness of pain. The boy now becomes what the implied reader has already become in the first seven chapters. Given the virtual identity of mind of the boy with that of the implied reader, the boy's development in the middle of the book, as he questions various orders and adopts and abandons various stances, proceeds largely in parallel with the implied reader's development. The implied reader sees the world through the boy's eyes with little irony, and this identification continues, even though there is at least one cause of irony that is perpetually present.

     As a motif, the painted bird pervades the book. Virtually every being that distinguishes itself in any way from its kind or within its customary environment is destroyed in chapters 1-14. The boy is distinguished in two ways, by his physical features and by the peculiar growth of his imagination. The reader is constantly reminded in these chapters that the boy's attempts to join his kind are doomed, yet this irony does not significantly reduce the identification between implied reader and character. Opposite to this irony is the continued imaginative sympathy of those few people who protect and preserve him despite their prejudices. It is finally imagination that "saves" the boy. His imagination leads him, in the last chapter, to see that it is another like himself at the other end of the telephone wire. Realizing that another person like himself wishes to speak to him, he makes the effort of speech and regains his lost voice. This effort can be seen as leading directly to his telling his story and, thereby, presenting us with this novel. The painted bird may find his way back into the flock by means of imagination that leads to sympathy and to speech.

     The implied reader's close identification with the character who is terrorized leads to a deep sympathetic involvement in his struggles to master his world, even with the ethic of revenge that dominates the boy's thoughts after the end of the war and his return to urban life. The reader feels the degree to which the boy has learned to live in a world different from the daylight world of his city. His night and silent self belongs to his life as an outcast, a life in which to identify with others is to offer oneself for sacrifice and in which silence is a means of complete self-containment. In such a world justice means the cancellation of debts without thought of reconciliation. Working against this development in the boy and in the implied reader is the imagination born out of the boy's terror.

     The effect of terror upon imagination in this novel is made clear quite early. When the boy is staying with Olga, he develops a fever, which may be prelude to an attack of the plague decimating the village. Her treatment includes burying him up to his neck in the ground overnight. In the morning, he is attacked by a flock of ravens that pluck out his hair. His final mental response to them is: "I gave up. I was myself now a bird. I was trying to free my chilled wings from the earth. Stretching my limbs, I joined the flock of ravens. Borne abruptly up in a gust of fresh, reviving wind, I soared straight into a ray of sunshine that lay taut on the horizon like a drawn bowstring and my joyous cawing was mimicked by my winged companions" (22).

     Granted, there is an ominousness to this identification with his destroyers, which reaches a climax in his desire to be the beautiful, fair SS officer whom he encounters later, but finally, empathy and communication prove of greater value to him than power and vengeance. In a world filled with April sunshine, at the end of his story, he again emerges from unconsciousness at the call of another, "perhaps a man like myself," and begins to speak the events of his life (213). Terror forces the boy to leap out of himself into the other. From these leaps he develops the capacity for sympathy. Terror isolates him in muteness and an ethic of revenge, but new calls to his primary imagination cause him to leap out of himself again and to risk speech. He reopens his dialogue with his kind, a dialogue that, as the last one-third of the novel has shown, need not be doomed. Finally, the boy adopts a perspective in which the self he has achieved becomes visible to himself and he is liberated from that self. Although that new perspective is not the direct result of terror, his particular power to adopt that perspective has been enhanced by his own experience of terror. The implied reader has been so close to the boy in the account of his terrors that the reader experiences with great immediacy the boy's entrapment in his outcast's role and the liberation in the release of his voice.

     The sensational terror of The Painted Bird is one important means by which Kosinski maximizes identification of the implied reader and the developing boy. Likewise, Faulkner uses sensational terror in Sanctuary to narrow the gap between his characters and the implied reader. Though horror is a major effect, and even though the terror of the characters is conveyed rather directly to the implied reader, these two novels are not examples of the tale of terror. Though criticism has not ignored relationships between these works and the traditions of tales of terror and though critics have been troubled about the functions of horror and terror in them, no scholar has argued that these works belong to the same genre as "The Pit and the Pendulum" and "The Tell-Tale Heart." It is apparent to all who read with care that the final purpose of these novels is not to horrify or terrify their readers. Though some critics have argued that terror threatens the aesthetic attitude of the reader, it seems clear that most readers of these texts manage to maintain their aesthetic relation to them. Horror and terror are used as prods to sympathy and understanding. Still, even in "The Pit and the Pendulum" and to a large degree in "The Tell-Tale Heart" terror and horror are so fully contained within the tale that aesthetic distance remains unaffected. If this is true, then the pleasure of reading such works is not greatly different from that of reading more conventional fiction.
 
 
 

III

     The uncanny tale of terror at its simplest is exemplified by the sensation stories that appeared in Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, such as William Maginn's "The Man in the Bell" (1821) and William Mudford's "The Iron Shroud" (1830). Both of these stories are thought to have influenced Poe, the latter providing ideas for "The Pit and the Pendulum." Poe also parodies such tales several times, notably in "The Premature Burial." These stories place an individual in a horrible situation and then detail his sensations. In "The Iron Shroud," a man is condemned to an ingeniously designed dungeon that compresses, apparently from four sides, over seven days, until he is crushed and canned in his bed. The prisoner experiences varieties of anguish, from despair and loneliness at being placed forever in solitary confinement, through the terror of discovering the nature of his cell, to the experience of being crushed. Mudford uses an almost clinical third-person narration, which opens considerable psychological distance between the reader and the protagonist. This story creates an implied reader who is highly sympathetic to the unfortunate young man's sufferings. Vivenzio is presented as a hero, "the noble and generous, the fearless in battle, and the pride of Naples in her sunny hours of peace" (Romantic Gothic Tales 186). He becomes the innocent victim of a tyrant, and the reader is horrified by his fate. One reason for calling this a sensation story is the degree to which it presents the "sensations" of the protagonist. What is it like to realize that one is abandoned and helpless, that one is in a machine that will slowly crush him, and to feel the walls closing in? Insofar as the story conveys these impressions and successfully encourages the reader to imagine his feelings in this situation, it provides a vicarious experience of terror. This experience can be made more intense if the psychological distance between reader and protagonist is reduced, as is the case with "The Man in the Bell."

     The structure of "The Man in the Bell" gives greatest play to a brief experience of terror. The narrator explains that by accident one Sunday he found himself in a tiny belfry when the noon ringing began. As a result, he was confined for about a half hour directly under the giant bell, within inches of it, on a weak lath floor. The bulk of the tale describes his entrapment: twenty minutes of ringing, followed by a five-minute silence and a chance to escape that he is unable to use, and then a final five minutes of ringing. He moves from fear of falling through the flimsy floor to fear of being struck by the bell, to a vibration between fear of these two opposing eventualities. He appreciates the irony that he need only be still to be safe, but the noise and the terror make holding still difficult. The noise is so great that it benumbs his mind and he begins to hallucinate. The bell takes the forms of various monsters that may tear and devour him. The motion of the air convinces him he is in a sea storm. Supernatural beings appear to him, including, finally, the devil who offers salvation in return for worship. When he screams for help, he is unheard, but his words are uncannily echoed back to him by the bell. His greatest fear becomes that he will lose control of himself and move into the bell's path. This story, more fully than "The Iron Shroud," details the sensations of the sufferer and, thereby, more fully stimulates the reader's imagination of what it must be like to be in this situation. Though the tale is completely free of supernatural occurrences, it gains some of the advantages of using such occurrences in the narrator's hallucinations. Natural terror evokes the experience of the supernatural. Indeed, it could be unclear whether the devil really does appear to tempt him, but the narrator seems quite sure that this was another hallucination. Though this tale may be more effective than "The Iron Shroud" in providing an opportunity to "play at" being in danger, the effect of both seems much the same.

     "The Iron Shroud" is like Sanctuary and The Painted Bird in that, for the most part, terror is the experience of the protagonist. The implied reader is instructed to feel horror at the protagonist's sufferings. However, insofar as the tale offers the reader an opportunity to construct an implied reader imaginatively sharing the protagonist's situation, "The Iron Shroud" moves away from tragedy toward terror, where the reader may experience fear for its own sake. "The Man in the Bell" moves further toward terror by removing the causes of horror. There is little horror for the reader to experience because the reassuring voice of the narrator is always present, reminding the reader that the terrifying experience was only an aberration. The narrator, speaking fifty years after the event, is virtually free of harm from his adventure. Quite understandably, he sometimes finds the sound of bells disturbing, but on the whole, he is a stable and secure elderly raconteur. Assured as we are of the safety of the teller, virtually all of our imaginative energy is free to place ourselves with him in his terrific adventure, to concentrate on its details and to fill them in as we are inclined.

     The special pleasure offered by this sort of tale seems clear and simple. We are invited to play at being in danger. The danger is essentially physical, though we can see that physical dangers lead to psychological fears that may, in turn, increase the physical danger. Indeed, for the reader who never has experienced and most likely never will experience just these situations, the psychological fear is of more importance than the physical danger. Though most people will never be trapped in a belfry or in a contracting prison cell, many will find themselves in analogous situations: traffic accidents, muggings, fires, and diseases. These stories, then, seem related to many kinds of human play in which we practice for encountering the various difficulties and dangers of human life. One of the useful functions of literature is to provide this kind of play, though I do not believe it is the primary reason for valuing literature. Indeed, the main special pleasure of the sensational tale of terror seems to be safely experiencing feelings unavailable in the normal course of events. We seek out such stories primarily to exercise our uniquely human psychological equipment, to explore, insofar as we safely can, the psychological extremes that arise from physical danger.

     Our pleasure in such experiences might come, then, from at least three different sources. First, we may be aware of the survival value of practicing for the terrifying; hence, we take pleasure in doing what is good for us. Second, as humans, we are especially endowed with the ability to self-consciously explore our mental states; hence, we enjoy the self-examination that these tales make possible. Finally, we take pleasure in the safe, distanced, experience of extreme emotions. This last is the specific aesthetic pleasure these tales offer. Each of the other kinds of pleasure may be seen to contribute directly to this aesthetic pleasure. Both of these tales place terror and horror within highly controlled aesthetic wholes. There is little danger that a real reader will encounter in such a tale any terror so formidable as to dissolve aesthetic experience. We enter such tales in a spirit of aesthetic play and the tales do nothing to violate that spirit. Like most fictions, then, they offer themselves to us for concretization, and they make the process easy. As a result, the containment of any terrors they may present is comparatively easy. This containment is easier, certainly, than in Sanctuary, where the terror of the fictional world, though it belongs to that world, persists after the text ends, in part, because the fictional world claims to be a representation of our world. Sensational tales of terror are unique in that within their aesthetically closed forms, they encourage the entertainment of catastrophe. The reader can pretend to be terrified without the risk of a really terrifying experience. The play of art makes a dangerous part of the world available to imagination.

     The uncanny tale of terror seems to become more effectively horrifying as it moves toward greater psychological complexity and as ambiguity is introduced at various levels of concretization. For example, Poe's "The Pit and the Pendulum" partakes of the effects of the sensation stories but introduces greater psychological complexity in the central character and confronts the implied reader with ambiguity in interpreting the events.

     The first-person narrator of "The Pit and the Pendulum" tells of his condemnation to death by some inquisition, of the diabolical modes by which he is threatened with various horrible deaths, and of his last minute escape from the final threat. He gives detailed, clinical descriptions of his circumstances and his situation. However, these are complicated by a delirium that distorts his perception and makes his experience dreamlike and nightmarish. In these features, the story is not greatly different from a sensation story, nor is it different in the particular terrors the narrator experiences. Upon awakening in his utterly dark cell, he fears he has been buried alive. His exploration of the cell proves him mistaken, but reveals that the darkness is a trap, which is to lead him to fall into the pit in the center of his cell. His senses are very limited in the darkness and, as a result, he is unable to form an accurate picture of his cell. This disorientation is remedied when he accidentally escapes the pit and so is subjected to the pendulum. Having avoided the pit by luck, he avoids the pendulum by pluck, more or less. Though in fear and despair he finds it difficult to reason, he is eventually able to do so when the threat of death is most immediate. He then works out how he is bound and how he may use the numerous rats in his cell to sever the bonds. For this to work, he must endure the sensations of rats, which have been waiting to eat him, crawling on his body. Finally, the unavoidable folding of heated iron walls forces him toward the pit that, in the course of his tortures, he has learned to dread above all the forms of death he has encountered. From this death, he is rescued neither by luck nor by pluck but by a fortuitous external force, a political revolution.

     The psychological complexity of the narrator encourages a closer identification with him than with the main characters of the other two sensation stories. Because he is so actively engaged in trying to keep control of his faculties and to deal with his situation, he draws the reader more fully into participation in his situation. He is more than a convenient admission into extreme experience. Furthermore, the narrator has a motive for telling his story, which goes beyond his qualifications as one who has experienced something extraordinary, for he now has evidence of the immortality of his consciousness. Early in the story, he speculates about two stages of awakening, "first that of the sense of mental or spiritual; secondly, that of the sense of physical existence." He reflects that if one could carry the memory of that first sense through the second stage of awakening, he might gain knowledge in this life of "the gulf beyond" (51). The narrator's suffering, which has pushed him to the limits of mental and physical endurance, has given him an especially rich awareness of the boundary between normal consciousness and what he calls madness, "the madness of a memory which busies itself among forbidden things" (51). The pit may be a literal representation of the gulf he wishes to know; by leading to his death, the pit would provide the knowledge he seeks, but not in the form he seeks it, for he prefers clearly to have it both ways, to remain in this world while obtaining knowledge of the other world. By putting his adventure into words, he captures, insofar as he can, what he values in his harrowing experience. That this suffering has benefited him makes it no less terrifying for him or horrifying for the reader. In fact, the story seems more horrifying than the sensation stories at least in part because the narrator is more complex. Terror is more significant because it happens to a more developed character about whom we care.

     Another element that contributes to the greater effectiveness of horror in this tale is the first-person narration, which makes the narrator's perceptions ambiguous. Poe creates a slight ambiguity, which unsettles the reader, making the implied reader more difficult to constitute. Once the narrator sinks into nightmare, near the opening of the story, it is never perfectly clear that he awakens. He records the experiences of awakening and swooning, but the events on both sides of this barrier, insofar as they are shown, seem adequately described as "the madness of a memory which busies itself among forbidden things." Though it is possible to make much -- or even too much -- of this ambiguity, it is a relatively minor feature of the tale. The narrator himself expresses little serious doubt about distinguishing between waking and sleeping. Resolving the issue one way or the other has little influence on the impact of the story. However, even such a slight uncertainty makes closure more difficult and, therefore, threatens to entangle the implied reader in the tale.

     Such ambiguity is more apparent and perhaps more productive of horror in "The Tell-Tale Heart." The first-person narrator here, in an attempted demonstration that he is not mad, proves unequivocally that he is. This tale, like sensation stories, details horrors, the stalking, smothering, and dismembering of a victim. However, the point of view is the murderer's. The troubling ambiguity arises most clearly in the middle of the tale, when the narrator reports the groan of his victim as precisely like his own midnight groans. The narrator so fully identifies with his victim that he may be his own victim. The question, which arises here and which is never settled, is whether the narrator is a mad killer or only a mad talker. Did he murder a man, whom he took to be a representation of a part of himself, or did he, in his mind, murder that part of himself? This uncertainty is more troubling than that of "The Pit and the Pendulum" because, though resolving it would not greatly change the meaning of the story, it does seem to affect the reader's view of the narrator. But since the text offers nothing but a madman's testimony, the question cannot be answered.

     One effect of a persistent ambiguity about the meaning of a text is a disturbing frustration of closure. If concretization is a fundamental process of the aesthetic experience, we cannot feel that a work is whole and the experience complete until a satisfying closure is provided. "The Tell-Tale Heart" is not a fragment, nor is closure really prevented. Closure is effected in a number of conventional ways: the confession is complete, its irony is fully realized, and the incident, from planning the crime through its detection, is whole. Poe has, however, introduced a problem that throws into question the status of this whole: is it a confession or is it revealing raving? This disturbs but does not prevent closure; it may even contribute to the tale by unnerving the reader. It is disturbing to discover that, like the narrator, we are unable clearly to distinguish between what is real and what is imagined. However, we are superior to the narrator, for we see how he is entangled in this problem as he does not. The implied reader shares the narrator's problem of perception but, from the vantage point of sanity, keeps that problem in perspective and does not allow the distinction between mental and physical events to collapse. By constructing such an implied reader, the real reader lets the ambiguity be a part of the story and so completes closure.

     In each of these short stories, terror is contained within the story. Only when there is troubling ambiguity about how to interpret the events does any kind of discomfort threaten the implied reader. Indeed, tales of this kind are relatively uninterested in really horrifying readers. Rather, they seem to encourage the vicarious experience or the contemplation of the extreme mental states that result from suffering or madness. Readers are more likely to feel horror in uncanny tales of terror when characters and situations are more fully developed.

     In William Godwin's Things as They Are; or, The Adventures of Caleb Williams (1794), for example, the horror of Caleb's sufferings is increased by his fuller development as character and narrator as well as by the fuller development of his nemesis, Falkland. This is a curiously flawed novel, which begins as an apologue to demonstrate the need for reforms in certain aspects of English law, but which, after the first volume, becomes a kind of Gothic novel of persecution that occasionally remembers its original intention. The fuller development of the two main characters allows for the creation of a suggestive psychological relationship between the two. Caleb seems impelled by a power he calls curiosity to probe Falkland until he discovers his secret guilt. Once he has discovered that guilt, Caleb continues to function as the conscience Falkland wishes to silence. There is an external drama of ambiguous persecution in which Falkland tries to insure Caleb's silence without taking his life, which seems to symbolize an internal drama in which Falkland tries to evade without eliminating the guilt resulting from his crimes. The multiple mirrorings of Caleb's situation, of Falkland's situation, and of their peculiar relationship, though Godwin may have intended them as persuasive examples of the pervasiveness of the iniquities he wishes to prevent, seem actually to produce a feeling of the uncanny (in Freud's sense). They tend to point at one possible underlying cause of a tyrant's seemingly malignant persecution of an unfortunate victim. Other authors have seen this possibility, which Godwin seems only to intuit here. For example, his daughter realizes it fully in Frankenstein, a "marvelous" tale of terror. There Victor clearly creates a monster that, to his mind, represents a part of himself from which he would like to escape; by refusing to own that part of himself, he invites and even "enjoys" persecution from his monster. Other similar examples appear in Simon Legree's persecution of Uncle Tom and Claggart's of Billy Budd.

     As characters become more fully developed in longer fictions and so more complex, the terrors they experience may begin to point toward the unconscious. Then horrors become charged with vague and disturbing meanings and begin to cause the effects that supernatural monsters evoke. A more effective novel than Caleb Williams in this vein is Charles Brockden Brown's Edgar Huntly ; or Memoirs of a Sleep-Walker (1799). Brown develops his characters fully enough to engage readers deeply on their behalf. He constructs the horrors of the tale to suggest the influence of unconscious motives, thus making them seem more significant and mysterious than the horrors of "The Iron Shroud." Furthermore, he introduces a highly disturbing ambiguity, which is left unresolved.

     Edgar Huntly appears at first to be a clumsily episodic adventure novel, but the more closely one looks at it, the more intriguing and troubling it becomes. The protagonist-narrator writes a long letter to his betrothed, recounting a series of adventures in which he has participated. At the end of this letter appear two short ones from Huntly to his benefactor, Sarsefield, and a final short letter from Sarsefield to Huntly. This last letter suggests some of the ways in which the apparent clumsiness becomes troubling. Midway through the novel, Edgar, a poor gentleman, learns that he will probably be unable to marry his correspondent, Mary Waldegrave, for her inheritance from her recently murdered brother does not seem to belong to her. Later it appears that the return of his advantageously married benefactor once again enables him to marry, but Sarsefield's last letter raises doubts about this event, which remain unresolved. The reader never learns whether Edgar and Mary are united. The purpose of Sarsefield's letter is to chastise Edgar. To understand how this comes about, we must look briefly at Edgar's adventures.

     The novel seems intended to demonstrate that one is rarely if ever fully aware of the meanings or the consequences of his actions. Edgar returns to his home shortly after the murder of his closest friend, Waldegrave, to solve the crime and bring the murderer to justice. When he sees Clithero, the mysterious servant of a neighbor, sleepwalking at the murder scene, he suspects Clithero of the murder. When he confronts Clithero, Edgar learns of his past. In Ireland Clithero rose out of obscurity to become the favorite servant of Mrs. Lorimer. His virtue eventually led to her allowing an engagement between Clithero and her beloved niece. Accidents and fatalities led Clithero, in self-defense, to kill Mrs. Lorimer's blackguard twin brother, father of his betrothed. Because Mrs. Lorimer believed her life supernaturally entwined with her brother's, she believed she would die when he did. Convinced that by killing her brother, he has, in effect, killed her, Clithero conceives, in a mad refinement of benevolence, the plan of killing her before she learns of her brother's death, thus sparing her part of the pain she can anticipate. When he fails to carry out this plan, he tells her what has happened and flees, ignorant of the consequences. Of course, Mrs. Lorimer does not die; eventually she marries Sarsefield and comes to America. Clithero's confession does not remove Edgar's suspicion, but it does push Clithero toward insanity, and it does awaken Edgar's benevolence.

     Edgar's main project in the novel becomes to cure the mad Clithero, who still believes he killed Mrs. Lorimer, now Mrs. Sarsefield. By the end of his adventures, Edgar knows that Clithero is mistaken and believes that when Clithero learns the truth, he will be cured. To Edgar's surprise, when Clithero does learn the truth, he sets out again to murder his former benefactress. Edgar writes two letters to Sarsefield to warn of Clithero's impending appearance. He sends them directly to Sarsefield, knowing that his wife may well see them first, since she handles his affairs during his frequent absences from home. She does see the second letter, and she collapses and miscarries as a result.

     Sarsefield chastises Edgar, then, for misdirecting the letters, even though Sarsefield knew full well from the first letter, which he luckily received himself, that the second was on its way to the same address. On one hand, Edgar's error seems almost comically trivial, especially when compared to the misguided benevolence that drives him to meddle with Clithero and thus send the murderer on his last mission. On the other hand, the consequences are quite serious, serious enough to make one wonder why Edgar and Sarsefield are so stupid about their handling of the letters. The reader is left wondering what to make of Edgar and Sarsefield; does either know what he is doing? This question arises repeatedly in Edgar's account of his adventures.

     His benevolence awakened by the story of Clithero's life in Ireland, Edgar becomes determined to help him, for even if he is Waldegrave's murderer, he has suffered enough. Clithero retires to the wilderness of Norwalk to die after telling his story to Edgar, but Edgar pursues him to save him. After three trips filled with wilderness adventures, Edgar has a series of shocks. He meets the man who is probably the real owner of Mary's inheritance and, in consequence, loses his hope for a speedy marriage. Fatigued from his adventures in the wilderness, frustrated in his efforts to benefit Clithero, and perhaps guilty about his diverted efforts to find his friend's murderer and about prying into Clithero's life, Edgar begins to sleepwalk. His sleepwalking mirrors Clithero's in several ways, most notably in that he also hides a treasure, Waldegrave's letters, without being aware of doing so. This fascination with and then doubling with Clithero, who Edgar believes at this point is a murderer and whom he suspects of having murdered his friend, is suggestive of unconscious motivations. Sleepwalking especially suggests that there are forces at work that the characters do not themselves understand. What these are, we can guess. Clithero has eliminated a barrier to his marriage, but in the process made that marriage impossible. Edgar has not killed his friend, but he believes he has gained from that death. After he discovers that he has not, he begins to behave as if he is guilty by mirroring Clithero's behavior. Perhaps his attempts to cure Clithero are unconsciously motivated by a desire to deal with the unconscious guilt associated with benefiting from a friend's death. Whatever is happening, Edgar begins to experience terrors as soon his sleepwalking begins.

     After a second episode of sleepwalking, Edgar finds himself at the bottom of a pit in a cave, with no memory of how he arrived there. Again, he is diverted from his quest for Waldegrave's murderer, but this time by some clearly unconscious force. Edgar takes three days to return to civilization, moving through a fairly clear death and rebirth pattern, which is parallel with a progress from savagery to civilization. This pattern suggests a journey into the unconscious and back again. His adventures -- drinking panther blood, rescuing a maiden, fighting "wild" Indians, losing and finding himself in rough terrain, nearly killing his friends, and successfully evading his own rescue while narrowly escaping death several times -- are filled with weird mistakes and odd humor, all of which suggest encounters with psychological as well as physical problems. One example of the humorous, almost dreamlike quality of his terrors in the wilderness comes near the end. He is amazed at his physical endurance. When he finds himself within a half day's walk of home, he determines to demonstrate this endurance to himself by completing the walk in six hours, despite his three days of suffering and privation. Six hours later, he has not yet gained the necessary road, and though he knows where he is, he is no closer to home than he was six hours earlier. Though he has, indeed, endured the physical effort, he has made no progress. This incident parodies his larger quests for justice, to marry, and to cure Clithero. In each case, unexpected and uncanny factors prevent his success.

     Of his earlier explorations of the wilderness, Edgar says, "My rambles were productive of incessant novelty, though they always terminated in the prospects of limits that could not be overleaped" (93). The physical nature of the wilderness is indicative of the moral nature of human life, which in his world proves so complex that while one believes he can see to the next step of his actions, he repeatedly finds that he has seen incorrectly. Edgar often finds himself doing what he never thought he could do and failing at what he believes he can easily accomplish. The complexities of his wilderness experience suggest that he knows neither himself, his fellows, nor his world. After hearing Clithero's story, Edgar wonders, "If consequences arise that cannot be foreseen, shall we find no refuge in the persuasion of our rectitude and of human frailty? Shall we deem ourselves criminal because we do not enjoy the attributes of diety? Because our power and our knowledge are confined by impassable boundaries?" (87).

     In order for Edgar to be able to successfully undertake moral actions, such as finding a murderer, curing a melancholic, or marrying, he must achieve a just appreciation of his own limits. Although he can see Clithero's limitations quite clearly, Edgar cannot see his own, even after he learns he has been sleepwalking, that he has been largely mistaken about the events of an Indian raid in which he was involved, that he has mistaken his friends for his enemies, and that he has made several other errors that only by good luck did not cause his death. Even after he learns that an Indian killed his friend and that his efforts with Clithero have been largely irrelevant, indeed, even after admitting to himself that Clithero would be better off dead, he persists in his blind attempt to cure the madman, only to precipitate new disasters. Edgar cannot control his own self. He cannot deal well with even the physical illusions of being lost in strange country. Yet because he survives, he does not see his own limits. He fails to appreciate the degree to which his limitations in the wilderness point toward greater limitations in dealing with the souls of others. He certainly does not see the wilderness as symbolic of the terrain of his own unconscious, invisibly determining his choices.

     Edgar does not know himself, and furthermore he may not be able to know himself sufficiently to avoid the errors he makes. Still, he should be able to appreciate that he is not qualified to meddle with another complex soul, which he must understand less well than he understands his own. Before Clithero tells Edgar his story, he says, "You boast of the beneficence of your intentions. You set yourself to do me benefit. What are the effects of your misguided zeal and random efforts? They have brought my life to a miserable close" (34-35). Though it is some time before the close actually comes, Clithero's words are prophetic. Each time Edgar confronts him, Clithero is at the point of determining to try to live out his life as best he can; each of Edgar's attempts to help drives Clithero toward the suicide he eventually commits.

     Insofar as Edgar's quest is to avenge his friend's murder, he succeeds quite by accident. Insofar as it is for ethical maturity, he fails miserably, but no one in the novel succeeds. If a measure of moral maturity is the ability to know oneself, including one's unconscious impulses, and to moderate one's passions to the benefit of others, no one comes close to success. The virtuous Mrs. Lorimer cannot behave rationally toward her villainous brother; her suffering and Clithero's derive ultimately from that failure. Clithero conceives of murdering her out of misguided benevolence. Sarsefield, a physician, will let Clithero die of wounds received from Indians because he judges for himself that to Clithero, "consciousness itself is the malady, the pest, of which he only is cured who ceases to think." Edgar assents to this judgment and to it adds, "Disastrous and humiliating is the state of man! By his own hands is constructed the mass of misery and error in which his steps are forever involved" (266). In spite of these beliefs and statements, Edgar still wishes to correct some of Clithero's mistakes after Clithero recovers. In doing so, he threatens Mrs. Sarsefield and drives Clithero to his final suicide. No character understands himself, his limitations, or his actions thoroughly, and therefore, in the case of each of these characters, benevolence issues in murder, direct or indirect. One of this novel's many ironies is that among Edgar, Sarsefield, and Clithero, only Clithero is never morally responsible for a death other than his own, since he kills Mrs. Lorimer's brother in self-defense.

     In Edgar Huntly, the stage of human action is beyond human comprehension. The foregrounded consequence of this fact is that virtue becomes criminal because of inevitable human ignorance. Edgar has asked whether men must be deemed criminal because they have not the attributes of diety. His adventures show that he must reply "yes." Indeed, as one observes how actions turn out, one may doubt the reality of virtue. Though Clithero has no idea who attacks him, the result of his defense is killing his betrothed's profligate father, an action clearly to his advantage. Perhaps it is because he cannot bear to benefit from such an act that he insanely deprives himself of any possible benefits. Edgar's ability to accept that he has unknowingly avenged the deaths of Waldegrave and also of his own parents, by single-handedly killing a band of Indians, may appear morally equivocal next to Clithero's despair. The reader may ultimately wonder whether Edgar's pursuit of Clithero is, in fact, unconscious vengeance disguised as benevolence, not unlike Sarsefield's refusal to treat Clithero's wounds. Perhaps Edgar even eliminates a rival for Sarsefield's affection and money with unconscious deliberation by misdirecting his two letters about Clithero. But if this is true, what is behind Sarsefield's failure to intercept the second letter? Does he have a reason for not wanting a child?

     Edgar Huntly is an uncanny tale of terror in which the psychological complexity of the characters puzzles the implied reader. The mysteriousness of their motives and actions calls for close attention, which leads to a troubling ambiguity in interpreting their motives. Nearly every major choice and action seems double. The character gives one reason for what he does, and the reader sees the shadow of another hidden and horrifying reason. Hidden behind the virtue of the best people is self-interest and vice. They do not seem to intend persecution or cruelty or even to advance their self-interests at the expense of others, yet their actions repeatedly tend in these directions.

     This ambiguity denies complete closure to the novel at the end of the reading of the text. A gap insistent upon being filled remains. And it is accentuated because so much is made to depend on how it is filled. What will be the final relationships of Edgar and Sarsefield and of Edgar and Mary? This gap is filled, I believe, with relative ease upon reflection. Upon accepting that the dilemma is not resolvable, that without a deeper knowledge of human nature and of these characters than we can possess, it is impossible to define their motives with either precision or certainty, we see that we occupy precisely the same position in relation to these characters as they occupy in relation to each other. The hesitation of the implied reader between two ways of interpreting these characters produces an uncertainty that mirrors their uncertainty about each other. To judge them precipitately as either good, evil, or even certainly mixed in their motives is to claim knowledge about them that they themselves are denied about each other. The implied reader's heightened confusion at the end of the novel, then, moves him closer to Edgar, closer to the bewilderment that he experiences but does not really understand. Even though he ultimately occupies a position superior in understanding to Edgar's, the implied reader shares Edgar's situation to such a degree as to feel an intensified horror both at the terrors Edgar suffers and at those he causes.
 

IV

     The tales and novels examined in this chapter tend to confirm Todorov's characterization of the vagueness of the uncanny genre. If "The Pit and the Pendulum" and "The Tell-Tale Heart" are taken as paradigmatic, in that they realize most fully what we usually think of as tales of terror while they avoid both the marvelous and the fantastic, then we can see relationships to them in at least three directions. Tales of sensation, such as "The Iron Shroud," seem to be relatively minor both in interest and power; perhaps they are prototypes of what Poe achieves in this vein. In the other two directions we have works that approach tragedy and works that approach the fantastic.

     Sanctuary, The Painted Bird, and related works point away from the tale of terror toward classic literature, especially tragedy. These works illustrate highly sophisticated uses of terror to minimize the moral and psychological distance between the implied reader and the characters in the fiction. These works are especially important to this study because they show that novelists of the caliber of Faulkner have worked with techniques similar to Whitman's. Faulkner acts directly on the implied reader by the indirect means of a rhetoric of juxtaposition and images. Such techniques are different from modes of narration, such as Ernest Hemingway often uses, that appear to leave judgment completely up to the implied reader and also from the more overt modes of offering narrative judgments, such as those we see, for example, in Jane Austen's novels, where the narrator tells the implied reader precisely what to think of Emma Woodhouse. Faulkner is able, without the use of an "instrusive" narrator, to work from two directions on the implied reader, presenting the characters in action, on the one hand, while forming the implied reader's judgments with materials apparently unconnected to the characters and their actions, on the other. Faulkner thus draws on a rich Gothic tradition as well as on the central literary tradition when he discovers the value of terrifying the implied reader to reduce distance between reader and morally equivocal characters.

     "The Tell-Tale Heart," with its mildly insistent ambiguity about the status of the narrator's acts, gestures in a direction that longer fictions such as Brown's Edgar Huntly seem to realize more fully. These fictions point toward without yet taking advantage of the possibilities of the fantastic in arousing horror and perhaps terror. In each of these, there is a hesitation between two or more ways of understanding events. This hesitation does not contribute to the fantastic, because all the suggested interpretions are natural. However, this hesitation between various natural explanations proves insistent and irresolvable. We wish to but we cannot know whether the madman actually takes another person's life. We cannot plumb the motives of Edgar and Sarsefield. In both cases the implied reader is brought closer to the characters and is made to experience a greater degree of identity with them than would have been the case without ambiguity. This greater identity serves to increase the horror of the stories by giving the implied reader just a taste of the terror of seeing the world as these characters do.

     Works of this kind are especially important to this study for two reasons. First, they show sophisticated writers of the tale of terror experimenting with the possibility of frustrating and delaying closure by means of persistent and troubling ambiguity. By delaying closure, they place a special burden on the implied reader. The role must have an end that should coincide with the completion of the concretion of the work. To frustrate this completion arouses anxiety in the real reader. A key expectation is violated, if only momentarily, but the effect reverberates along the entire system by which the real reader participates in the work. The narrator is unable to read some major aspect of his experience. The implied reader is unable to read and judge the narrator; the real reader is unable to complete the role of implied reader in the expected and, therefore, relatively easy way. In a tale of terror such an experience, even when so brief as in these works, can be seriously shocking.

     Second, the ambiguity in these works points toward the unconscious as a source of terror. Both Todorov and Rosemary Jackson have argued that fantasy gains its particular power to terrify by presenting images of the culturally forbidden, which is the "content" of our unconscious. In Caleb Williams as well as in "The Tell-Tale Heart" and Edgar Huntly, we see representations or at least suggestions of unconscious activity and the realization of forbidden unconscious wishes. These images are suggested also in the hallucinations of the man in the bell. Such representations can probably be most effectively made horrifying when the author uses the marvelous, either in a marvelous work or in some form of fantastic work. We will turn to marvelous tales in the chapter 3.

     What can we say, then, about the particular pleasures of the uncanny tale of terror? We can see a kind of continuum on which the uncanny tale of terror relates to tragedy at one end and the fantastic tale of terror at the other. To move from works like Sanctuary to those like "The Man in the Bell" involves shifting the focus from using terror to control judgments of characters and their fates to making terror the center of the story. To move from works like "The Man in the Bell" to Edgar Huntly involves reducing the protective psychological distance between the characters and the implied reader. This distance is reduced by creating a disturbing ambiguity in the tales that seems akin to fantastic hesitation. The implied reader is implicated in the problems of the madman of "The Tell-Tale Heart" and of Huntly and Sarsfield and, therefore, entangled in these tales, while "The Man in the Bell" and "The Pit and the Pendulum" are careful to close off the narrators' terrifying experiences in completed aesthetic forms.

     Within the uncanny tale of terror, then, we find two fairly clear divisions: sensational tales of terror and ambiguous sensational tales of terror. The simpler, unambiguous forms offer the pleasures of playing at being in danger. The implied reader is asked to identify closely with the victim in some catastrophe, not so much to pity him as to enter into his experience of danger and to share it vicariously. The play of being in danger and dealing with the resulting emotions becomes part of the concretization of the work. The story promises and delivers a risk-free excursion, for the experience of danger is vicarious and the evoked emotions are contained within a highly controlled aesthetic whole.

     Poe and Brown, in the tales we have examined, tend to complicate this fairly simple form by introducing ambiguities. Among the results is increased risk. The pleasure, however, is much the same, though perhaps of a higher degree. "The Tell-Tale Heart" and Edgar Huntly require the reader to be more active in containing the threats posed by the stories. Their ambiguity challenges the reader's ability to complete concretions. The real reader experiences and overcomes mild anxiety when the work unexpectedly opens a problem at the point where closure is expected. This active use of our faculties for producing order is not greatly different from our activity in completing any literary work. As a practical matter, readers often experience similar kinds of anxiety because of more ordinary difficulties of a work's style or organization or because of their limitations as readers. The difference here is that these tales of terror deliberately seek to produce this anxiety and to heighten it at a particular point, at or near the end of the work. Therefore, the reader experiences a quite specific challenge. Modern readers come to such works expecting some sort of a challenge; adult readers, I believe, though they may enjoy "The Man in the Bell," prefer "The Tell-Tale Heart," in part because it produces some measure of real risk. The pleasure of enduring and overcoming this anxiety of real risks, however small they may be, is greater than that of simply entering into the sufferings of the victim at second hand. When the reader risks something, then the challenge becomes, to an extent, first hand. The deliberate production of anxiety points toward the possibility of turning up that anxiety, by prolonging and intensifying it. This is one important possibility that really terrifying tales will take up to work their magic.

End of Chapter 2.

Contents
  Notes &
Permissions
  Preface & Acknowledg-
ments
1:
Introduction
2: Horror in Literature and the Literature of Horror
3: The Marvelous Horror Thriller
4:  The Fantastic/Uncanny Horror Thriller
5: The Aesthetics of the Horror Thriller: Stoker's Dracula
6: The Pure Fantastic Tale of Terror
7:  Anticlosure: Poe's "Ligeia"
8: The Entrapped Critic:
Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher"
9: The Master's Trap:
James's The Turn of the Screw 
10: Escape: An Aesthetics of Terror Fantasy
11: Terror and the Sublime
Sources
Index