For a more comprehensive understanding of Poe’s literary philosophy, one should read his “Philosophy of Composition,” in which he discusses how he composed “The Raven” according to setting, theme, and its single effect. Complementing the “Philosophy of Composition” is his perceptive review of Hawthorne’s Twice Told Tales in which he praises Hawthorne while discussing his own philosophy of the short story.
To appreciate Poe’s tales of ratiocination and his contributions to detective fiction, one should read “Murders in the Rue Morgue,” “The Purloined Letter,” and “The Gold Bug.” Two short stories that deal with exacting the perfect revenge are “The Cask of Amontillado” and “Hop Frog, or the Eight Chained Orangoutangs.” The latter, while often overlooked by scholars and critics, typifies Poe’s gothicism in its setting, its grotesque characterizations of both Hop Frog and the King and his Seven Cabinet Ministers, and its ratiocination principle in its details of Hop Frog’s planned revenge. Equally intriguing is “William Wilson” and its doppelganger effect. For Poe’s sea tales, one should read “A Descent into the Malestrom” with its overtones of Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” “MS Found in a Bottle,” and The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym which, claims Vincent Buranelli, may have a “descendant in Moby Dick.”
Among Poe’s tales of terror and horror are “The Black Cat” and “The Tell-Tale Heart,” both about madness and murder; “Ligeia,” which deals with reincarnation and was Poe’s favorite; “The Masque of the Red Death” for its color symbolism and allegorical nature; and “Berenice,” about which Poe commented that its affect was “the most ludicrous heightened into the grotesque; the fearful colored into the horrible; the witty exaggerated into the burlesque; the singular wrought out into the strange and mystical.”