Write an essay discussing the following points:
  1. Thoroughly show how the work of literature fits the definition of Romanticism.
  2. Show how the writer’s life affected his/her work.
  3. Show how the work compares in style, character, theme, etc. to other works by the author and to your other assigned work.

"The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar" by Edgar Allan Poe is a chilling yet fantastic story about a hypnotist and a dying man. Published in 1845, this short story is about a doctor who is obsessed with the subject of Mesmerism, and he goes as far as to try to hypnotize a man who is on the verge of dying to see if it can be done (Poe). Mesmerism is "a hypnotic state induced by the operator's imposition of his will on that patient" (Mesmerism). The dying man's name is M. Ernest Valdemar. The doctor made an agreement with a friend at the hospital where Valdemar was being held, and he agreed to help the doctor follow through with the experiment (Poe). Seven months later, the doctor was notified that Valdemar was not going to live much longer. The doctor travelled to the hospital and waited until Valdemar was just on the brink of death, and then he hypnotized him (Poe). The man is successfully hypnotized, and the doctor proceeds to ask him questions. The man can no longer feel the pain from the disease that ailed him before. Valdemar tells the doctor not to wake him so he may die without pain. After his short conversation with the doctor, Valdemar then ceases breathing and his skin turns icy cold. He is pronounced dead, but as they prepare him for his burial, he begins to speak again, and he says that he was sleeping before, and now he is dead (Poe). Amazed, the doctors leave Valdemar in his state for seven months. The doctors make a decision to wake him after those seven months, and Valdemar immediately tells them that he is dead, and he needs to be awakened. The doctor awakens him, and Valdemar's body immediately begins to rot and fall apart (Poe). This is a very good Dark Romanticism short story. There are many prominent aspects of Dark Romanticism that are displayed in this short story, including a focus on the tragic, dark details, and the use of mystery ("gothic"). This short story did not have much of a moral or a life lesson, so it is hard to say if Poe's life affected this work, but his interests and goals may have affected this story some. Compared to other works by Dark Romanticism authors, this is so far the most grotesque piece of work I have read. Edgar Allan Poe 's "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar" is written in a simple style, but Poe still manages to captivate and draw in his readers with "mesmerizing" topics.

There are many characteristics of Dark Romanticism found in "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar". The first and most prominent characteristic of Dark Romanticism in this story is the focus on the tragic ("gothic"). The whole short story revolves around a man who is kept on the verge of dying. The story revolves around the tragic story of Valdemar, who has tuberculosis and is dying slowly and painfully. His death is only prolonged by the mesmerist, his death is still inevitable, and the mesmerist knows it. The doctor knows that once he awakens Valdemar, his body will immediately decompose (Sova). The story is tragic because of this; Valdemar will suffer either way. Another characteristic of Dark Romanticism found in this short story is the use of very descriptive, dark words that are meant to give the reader chills (Krueger). One example of Poe's use of descriptive yet dark words in "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar" is,
For what really occurred, however, it is quite impossible that any human being could have been prepared. As I rapidly made the mesmeric passes, amid ejaculations of 'dead! dead!' absolutely bursting from the tongue and not from the lips of the sufferer, his whole frame at once -- within the space of a single minute, or even less, shrunk -- crumbled -- absolutely rotted away beneath my hands. Upon the bed, before that whole company, there lay a nearly liquid mass of loathsome -- of detestable putridity. (Poe)
This quote is a grotesque description of what happened when the mesmerist woke Valdemar. The words "shrunk", "crumbled", and "rotted" alone are enough to make the reader cringe at the mental image that is portrayed by these words. The word "putridity" is also a vile and ugly word that also makes the mind think of unpleasant things. The above sentence is the most graphic one in the whole story because it uses the most descriptive, dark words. The chanting of "dead! dead!" could also cause the reader to feel fear because it is such a dark and evil word that is being repeated by a man who is technically dead (Poe). The quote says that it was not the man talking, it was just his tongue. The last characteristic of Dark Romanticism that I found in "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar" is the use of mystery ("gothic"). The whole story is almost a mystery because the reader does not know how the doctor managed to mesmerize Valdemar, and the reader does not know why Valdemar's body instantly decayed once he was awoken. The mystery also works as a form of suspense. When the doctor is trying to wake Valdemar after the mesmerization to see if it worked, the suspense grows because Valdemar does not respond to the doctor the first few times. The suspense and mystery of what is going on in "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar" helps to keep the reader alert an interested.

During the time that Poe was writing "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar", mesmerism was very popular, especially in Europe and America ("Poe, Edgar"). Poe wrote this story because during his life, many doctors were trying to successfully practice mesmerism to help ease the pain that their patients suffered from. He wrote it almost as a parody of what the real doctors were trying to do ("Poe, Edgar"). Poe even admitted in letters that he addressed to Arch Ramsay and George W. Eveleth that this short story was meant to be a hoax (Werlock). Many readers believed that "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar" was a true story, and it took Poe years to finally convince all of the people that his story was just that- a story ("Poe. Edgar").

"The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar" by Edgar Allan Poe was more interesting to read about that the other works by Poe that I have read. I enjoyed "The Pit and the Pendelum", but this short story was a little less confusing. Both the "Pit and the Pendulum" and "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar" were written by Edgar Allan Poe, so the writing style is very similar. They both use very dark, descriptive words, although "The Pit and the Pendulum" has a more vividly described background. Compared to Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Minister's Black Viel", this story was less relatable, but it used more descriptive words. Both of these stories were quite straightforward and simply written. The characters in "The Minister's Black Viel" are much more judgmental than the characters in "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar". In "The Minister's Black Veil", the people judge the minister for wearing a black veil. They push him away, and his fiancee even leaves him when he refuses to take the veil off (Hawthorne). In "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar", the doctor hypnotizes a dying man, who soon after turns into a hypnotized dead man (Poe). The other doctors in the story have little to no reaction to what has happened to that dead man. They are not panicking, and they are not calling the mesmerizer "the devil" or anything of the like. The characters in "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar" are much more composed and unfazed than the characters in "The Minister's Black Veil".
"The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar" is a great Dark Romanticism short story for a multitude of reasons. The story is mystifying which keeps the reader interested throughout the whole story, and the words Poe chose to describe objects are dark, and they give the reader a very good mental image of what the situation and setting may have looked like. The story also focuses on something tragic, which is the death and prolonged "dying period" of M. Valdemar. This piece of Poe's work was affected by his life because during Poe's life, doctors were fascinated with mesmerization, and Poe wrote this story as a parody of that. Compared to other Dark Romanticism works. Poe's "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar" is a chilling and dark piece of literature.


Works Cited

Krueger, Christine, ed. "Romanticism." Encyclopedia of British Writers, 19th Century, vol. 1. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2002.Bloom's Literary Reference Online. Facts On File, Inc. http://www.fofweb.com/activelink2.asp?ItemID=WE54&SID=5&iPin= GEBWIXX351&SingleRecord=True (accessed December 31, 2010).


“Dark Romanticism - American Narrative." Dark Romanticism. Web. 31 Dec. 2010. <http://iron.lcc.gatech.edu/~ntrivedi6/1102/index.php/Dark_Romanticism>.

Werlock, Abby H. P. "gothic." The Facts On File Companion to the American Short Story, Second Edition. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2009. Bloom's Literary Reference Online. Facts On File, Inc. http://www.fofweb.com/activelink2.asp?ItemID=WE54&SID=5&iPin= CASS391&SingleRecord=True (accessed December 31, 2010).


Werlock, Abby H. P. "'The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar'."The Facts On File Companion to the American Short Story, Second Edition. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2009. Bloom's Literary Reference Online. Facts On File, Inc. http://www.fofweb.com/activelink2.asp?ItemID=WE54&SID=5&iPin= CASS320&SingleRecord=True (accessed December 11, 2010).

"Mesmerism | Define Mesmerism at Dictionary.com." Dictionary.com | Find the Meanings and Definitions of Words at Dictionary.com. Web. 11 Dec. 2010. <http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/mesmerism>.

Poe, Edgar Allan. "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar by Edgar Allan Poe." Edgar Allan Poe, Short Stories, Tales, and Poems. Web. 11 Dec. 2010. <http://poestories.com/read/facts>.

Sova, Dawn B. "'The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar'."Critical Companion to Edgar Allan Poe: A Literary Reference to His Life and Work, Critical Companion. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2007. Bloom's Literary Reference Online. Facts On File, Inc. http://www.fofweb.com/activelink2.asp?ItemID=WE54&SID=5&iPin= ffazpoe0436&SingleRecord=True (accessed December 11, 2010).

"Poe, Edgar Allan: The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar." Literature, Arts, and Medicine Database. 8 Aug. 1994. Web. 11 Dec. 2010. <http://litmed.med.nyu.edu/Annotation?action=view&annid=275>.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. "The Minister's Black Veil." Glencoe Literature. Comp. Jeffrey Wilhelm. American Literature. Ed. Columbus: McGraw-Hill. 2010. 280-289. Print.