In the second phase of the narrator’s life, having been discouraged by the emptiness of life without Eleonora, the narrator decides to seek a livelier atmosphere by participating in worldly affairs. Idealistic and endearing an idea this was, it would be severely tested and defeated in the face of the charms of Ermengarde. The author’s endeavor is to reconcile these apparently contradictory actions on part of the narrator. Poe is able to achieve this goal by stylized application of the best features of Romantic Movement in literature, which was in vogue in the early decades of the 19th century. Although Poe preceded Freud, there is evidence of some of the latter’s theories in Poe’s works, including Eleonora.
One of the theories articulated by Sigmund Freud is that of Cognitive Dissonance. We can witness this at play as the narrator justifies his abandonment of the promises made to the deceased Eleonora in the face of the compelling romantic pull of Ermengarde. It is fair to claim that the cognitive dissonance felt by the narrator is a necessary mental conflict, just as much as his eventual resolution of it is justifiable. His decision to break his promise to Eleonora is justified on the grounds that it has lost its relevance. The promise’s breach is not a measure of the sincerity of intention at the point of making such a compact. But such is human nature that some promises lose their utility beyond a certain time. In the case of the narrator’s life after Eleonora, he has done nothing unethical or immoral in being drawn to natural worldly temptations, especially in the form of the feminine allure. [iii]
Freud’s theory of ‘The Uncanny’ can be brought to bear on the short story. Though Freud’s life and career succeeded and not preceded that of Poe’s, there is a strong foreshadowing of the former’s theories in the latter’s literary works. This can be deduced through derivative logic, where we evidence the influence of German writer E.T.A. Hoffmann in the works of Poe. That Freud acknowledged how ‘the uncanny’ was at play in Hoffmann’s works helps us infer how they were also applied by Poe in his own distinct social and cultural milieu. For example, “Poe was well acquainted with publications by European writers and even accused other American authors of plagiarizing their ideas. Some critics have noted the similarities between “William Wilson” and The Devil’s Elixirs…” [iv]
Poe exposes the manifestation of the uncanny in Eleonora through his depiction of the ecology of the hills of Many Colored Grass. For example, when the narrator’s romantic involvement with his cousin Eleonora was at a peak, the surrounding natural beauty brimmed in its splendour to reflect their relationship: