Short Story Sunday - The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar

The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar by Edgar Allan Poe was published in 1845. It was published without the specific clarification that it was a fictional account. Poe was one of the earliest American short story writers. He used a recurring theme in his stories that focus around death and the questions that arise from it, including physical signs of death, decomposition, premature burial, reanimation of the dead, and the process of mourning. Poe seemed to enjoy the effect his horror "hoaxes" had on his readers.

Poe was one of the first masters of horror. In this story he uses a particular amount of gore. He refers to much of the physical aspects of death throughout this story. Elizabeth Barrett Browning comment that Poe had an uncanny ability of "making horrible improbablitities seem near and farmiliar." The narrator of the the story tells the facts of the case and shares his curiosity of hypnotising someone at the point of death to see what effect it would have. As the narrator approaches the death bed of Valdemar he recalls, "His face wore a leaden hue; the eyes were utterly lustreless; and the emaciation was so extreme, that the skin had been broken through by the cheek-bones." These details become the basis to undestanding the transformation of Valdemar through hypnonsis and then finally to death.

A short time later the hypnosis or mesmerize is attempted. "At five minutes before eleven, I perceived unequivocal signs of the mesmeric influence. The glassy roll of the eye was changed for that expression of uneasy inward examination which is never seen except in cases of sleep-waking, and which is quite impossible to mistake."

Even after his physical death the mesmerized Valdemar is suspended in life. Like a whisper it is heard. "Yes;—no;—I have been sleeping—and now—now—I am dead." When the narrator attempts to wake or release the dead man from the hypnotic trance Valdemar decomposes instantly. "Upon the bed, before the whole company, there lay a nearly liquid mass of loathsome—of detestable putrescence."
I found this story interesting but felt slightly alienated by the archaic language. I was curious to know while reading it what type of person proclaims, "I love Poe!" Are you one of those people? What do you find so interesting about his stories? This particular story is considered very gory. And I guess, in part, up to modern standards, I find that confusing to.
Have you read this story? Pleas share your thoughts.


  1. I tried reading this, but after the first few paragraphs it just bored me. I agree on the archaic language - it just isn't able to capture your attention. And I think he uses too much unnecessary detail. But I've read and enjoyed some of his other stories, like The Tell Tale Heart, etc. And I have the full book of all his works here. But I haven't quite made my way through it yet. :p

  2. I have not read this particular story but I have read a lot of Poe and I always liked his works. I read a lot of Preston/Child's books mainly because they remind me of Poe in their writing. Guess on my next trip to the Library I will have to look up Poe again and check some of his work that I haven't read yet out. :)

  3. poe's life and this story are my lecture is difficult to understand because of vocabulary but in genaral it is really good and has vivid descriptions.With the help of my lecture i have read lots of his stories and poems and i became fan of edgar:)


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