Tobias Wolf and Edgar Allan Poes stories present a good ground for comparison in terms of themes and styles of writing. Tobias Wolfs Bullet in the Brain is a narrative concerning the main character Anders. As revealed from the beginning of the story, Anders has lived all his life as a book critic. Through critiquing books, he becomes critical of every aspect of life and people around him. He experiences a final memory after being shot in the head during a bank robbery just because he resents robbers and criticizes them. On the other hand, Edgar Allan Poes The Cask of Amontillado is a first person narration of Montresor, who seeks to kill Fortunato out of revenge. While Montresor states that his friend Fortunato has irreparably abused him, there is no proof of such insults, hence, no rationale behind his killing motive. The two stories present characters that are angry at life, but differ on the cause of the pain that makes them perceive life as they do.
Narrated in the third person, Anders in Bullet in the Brain is presented as an individual with no sympathy. From the onset, Anders interaction with the woman in front of him in the bank and general perception of life portrays him as a character not worthy the readers empathy. He has a clear indifferent attitude towards bank robbery, something that might have led him to be shot. The indifference is an interesting aspect of the plot since it prologs his rebellious attitude towards bank robbers. When a reader meets this character in the first place, it is questionable as to whether or not he cares about his life. Anders seems not aware of the severity of the situation he is in since he critiques bank robbers in the same way he would with the books he reads.
A large part of the story portrays Anders as an unlikable character, who cannot even be perceived as an anti-hero. After the shooting is when the author uncovers Anders past. Through flashback evidenced in the last memory, Wolf takes readers into the history of Ander. Seemingly, there is a cause as to why he behaves the way he does. Many things in this characters past humanize him because they were painful. When he was young, Anders used to play with his peers a game of baseball. This memory completely changes how readers view Anders. It is agreeable that he does not evolve much in the story.
When it comes to Edgar Allan Poes story, Montresor is presented in a bit different manner. Just like most of Poes stories, the horror of The Cask of Amontillado is the lack of proof that accompanies the main characters assertions. At least, Anders had begun his life less critical until an experience changed him along the way to become critical of everything. Montresor has no proof that Fortunato had insulted him. It is possible that this character wants to kill his friend just out of hatred. Poes story is different from Wolf because of the themes explored. Apart from revenge that is explicitly outlined in the narrative, the killing plotted is secretive. Montresor makes it a secret to kill Fortunato so that he can avoid legal channels for vengeance. At this point, the author emphasizes the aspect of the absence of proof since legal channels would normally seek for it.
Montresor decides to use his subjective experience of Fortunato abusing him so that he can become jury by himself and seek justice. While many stories told in the first person narrator are meant to draw empathy from readers, Poe positions his character in an awkward place an unreliable narrator. It was important for Montresor to outline the reasons behind wanting to kill Fortunato, especially through proof of insults. However, an important aspect to keep in mind is Poes use of color imagery to allow readers to question the motives of Montresor. He puts on a black silk mask, which represents blind justice or rather biased vengeance. On the other hand, Fortunato puts on an attire with motley color the court fool, who is evidently and seriously tricked by Montresors concealed intentions.
The carnival setting is chosen because of its rejection of social order. This contrasts with the bank setting in Bullet in the Brain because it is a place that order is paramount. While Montresor did not want the society to learn about his frustrations and eventual killing of Fortunato, Anders critical nature had to be brought into the open for people to understand the ills that had changed his nature. Although Wolf provides the basis for Anders behavior through flashback, he uses elements of craft that are naturally perceived poor writing. In essence, apart from the repulsive main protagonist, part of the narration is didactic and simply makes the reader have performed ideas about Anders. This is unlike Poe, who wants readers to think hard and uncover why Montresor wants to kill Fortunato.
The bottom line is that these two characters are mistaken, in which case, one is ready to be redeemed but has limited time. The other has all the time to change, but refuses to heed. Poe depicts Montresor as a person with no regret for his intentions to kill Fortunato. On the contrary, Wolf portrays Anders as an individual who wishes to have more time so that he can change his view of life and appreciate simple aspects that he has come to ignore in life. For instance, Anders has not had time to think about his wife and daughter. Such differences in the two stories prepare readers to acknowledge how different situations can influence the decisions made by people and consequences of actions in life. If Anders had come to his mind and realized that the bank robbery situation was not meant for criticism, he would not have been shot. The main characters in the two stories acted out of anger. Anger, in this case, provides a similarity between the two books, with Anders being upset because of the problems he faced in his early childhood, while Montresor in The Cask of Amontillado is upset because of the abusive relationship he had with his friend Fortunato. Wolf achieves a sense of maturity in the writing style at the point he uses white space. The space is meant for readers to pause and think about what has just taken place, as they get ready for what is to come next. The writer leaves readers in suspense with Anders shot and the only thing left is for readers to fill in the gaps. Poe apparently employs this suspense when he wants readers to discern the reasons behind Montresors motives. The two authors seek to explore the psychological processes in people as they face challenges in life. They seem to warn the audience that every action undertaken in a social context may have adverse effects not only at a personal level, but also at the societal level. Clearly, Anders perspective of life not only resulted in his death, but also affected his wife and daughter.
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