“There had been a very remarkable and most unaccountable omission: — no person had as yet been mesmerized in articulo mortis.” This quote is from the gothic short story ‘The facts in the case of M. Valdemar’ written by Edgar Allan Poe. I have chosen this story because it is one of the best gothic short stories by Edgar Allan Poe who is one of the most influential and successful gothic fiction authors. I believe in this short story that the doctor is a gothic protagonist. There are six traits that relate to a Gothic protagonist. These traits are contrasting qualities, High social rank, often shows negative foreshadowing, is driven by strong emotions, is secretive or has an air of mystery and has a need to know. These traits are related to a Gothic protagonist because they are consistently used in Gothic novels and short stories and are globally accepted to be the traits of a Gothic protagonist (common conventions of a gothic protagonist). This short story is describing a doctor trying to keep his patient alive through the process of hypnotism. He uses a technique called Mesmerism which is with the use of magnetic and electricity to keep this dying man alive. The protagonist in this story shows two of the traits of a gothic protagonist. He shows the trait of ‘need to know’. I will be talking about the protagonist’s curious nature when it comes to exploring the unknown. The protagonist also shows the trait of an air of mystery. I will be talking about how the doctor wants to keep his works a secret and why this is mysterious.

He states that the experiment is working “The general appearance was certainly not that of death.” I believe the doctor predominantly shows two of the traits of a gothic protagonist by trying to keep a dying man alive through Mesmerism. I think he shows a need to know. He needs to know new things about the world and he needs to see if he can save a man that is about to die by putting him under hypnosis. I believe that the doctor’s needs were selfless and that he wanted to see if he could find a cure for death. He wanted to do the likely impossible. This was a big idea in the 19th century and if the doctor achieved this then it would be a medical breakthrough. I relate to this in a way because I also have a need to know and I would like to study different kinds of science so that I can help the world improve and hopefully find cures for many different things such as death which is what the doctor is trying to do. I would like to help a dying person become alive again just as the doctor is doing. The doctor is trying to satisfy his curious nature by exploring the unknown. He ‘needs to know’ what will happen if he tries this new experiment. This clearly gives him a trait of a gothic protagonist. I think Poe has done this for a reason. I think Poe is trying to awaken the part of our curious minds. He is trying to hook us in and make us think is this too far or is this morally acceptable?  I think that this was morally acceptable and the Doctor didn’t go too far. He had good reason to do what he did and so I reacted in a positive way towards this. The doctor’s intentions seem good.

The doctor does show an air of mystery, however. The doctor’s name is never revealed and I find this very mysterious. If the things that the doctor is allegedly doing is legitimate then why would he want to keep it a secret. I think either what the doctor is doing is fake or the doctor is not telling us the whole story. Usually when you do something good you want your name to be out there so that people can know all the good things that you are doing but in this situation, this is not the case. The doctor’s name is kept anonymous. I think the doctor that is performing these acts is, in reality, a fake and could be using the bodies for other selfish and sick reasons or maybe even for different experiments that would be hated on during this era. When I do something which is wrong or not socially accepted then I try to hide my name and make sure that no one knows that I am the one doing this thing. I think I have a connection with this doctor because sometimes It is just better to keep your name a secret for your good and/or for others good. I think Poe has done this to spark some contradicting ideas in our minds. If all the Doctor is doing is good then why is it that his name is not mentioned? Is there something we don’t know? This made me think that the doctor might not just be doing this to benefit the patient but he might be doing it to benefit himself and to quench his thirst for this knowledge that he ever so much needs. I felt that the doctor was just being selfish. I think I thought this because of the mysterious nature of the doctor and who he is. He gives us only minor details on his experiment and no information on himself which is mysterious to me.

Edgar Allan Poe has created a gothic short story which has a very mysterious nature. This short story sparked something inside of me. It made me rethink if what I hearing and reading is actually the truth. It made me relate to the outside world and think of many times where the information I hear and read is fake. I would recommend this novel to anyone who wants to read about characters who have an air of mystery and a need to know.

Join the conversation! 1 Comment

  1. Hi Lewie,

    I think you are on the right track with this. I would think about some of the ways you are wording things and look at developing a richer personal response. The response does not need to be how you see yourself effected by the techniques or things the writer is doing in the text. It can be about the historical context of the text, the way it makes you feel as a reader or the position it puts you in as a reader.

    Avoid making these “I can relate to this…” statements as they feel really forced. There are stronger ways to show you have connected or can respond to a text.

    This is original though and I like that. Don’t discount the work you have done here as there are some good moments in this piece, it just needs to be developed further.

    Mrs. P


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