Poe, by his own choice, was a poet, but economic necessity forced him to turn to the relatively profitable genre of prose. Whether or not Poe invented the short story, it is certain that he originated the novel of detection. Perhaps his best-known tale in this genre is “The Gold Bug” (1843), about a search for buried treasure. “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” (1841), “The Mystery of Marie Roget” (1842-1843), and “The Purloined Letter” (1844) are regarded as predecessors of the modern mystery, or detective, story (see Detective Story).
Many of Poe's tales are distinguished by the author's unique grotesque inventiveness in addition to his superb plot construction. Such stories include “The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym” (1838), noted for its blend of factual and fantastic material; “The Fall of the House of Usher” (1839), in which the penetrating gloominess of the atmosphere is accented equally with plot and characterization; “The Pit and the Pendulum” (1842), a spine-tingling tale of cruelty and torture; “The Tell-Tale Heart” (1843), in which a maniacal murderer is subconsciously haunted into confessing his guilt; and “The Cask of Amontillado” (1846), an eerie tale of revenge.
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