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İsmail Onur Sonat


In Edgar Allan Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart", Franz Kafka's "The Judgement", Fyodor Dostoyevski's Notes from the Underground and Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight, the Gaze of the other poses a threat against one's existence through the effect of otherization, which prompts the objectified and alienated individual to descend into madness, hide in isolation or put an end to his own life in order to escape.

All through "The Tell-Tale Heart", Poe makes the nameless narrator's discomfort, annoyance and terror of the vulture-like eye of the old man apparent, so much so that the Gaze becomes synonymous with danger for him. The narrator, while expressing his geniune affection towards this man's personality and indifference to the gold he is in the possession of, reveals that the sole reason he kills him is that he feels the urge to get rid of his eye just to stop feeling its gaze, which accentuates his strong response to being the object. For seven days, he goes to the old man with the purpose of murdering him, but he cannot do the deed when his soon-to-be-victim is sleeping, because he feels as though the eye should be open for him to do it, underlying his sincerity about how the old man's gaze makes him feel. Jean-Paul Sartre explains this as, “there is an Other, whatever, wherever, whatever its relationship with me … then I have an outside, an objective nature, my original sin is the existence of the other” (Being and Nothingness 121), identifying the role of the Gaze in the object's psyche. Similarly, the narrator's objecthood in the eyes of the other leads to a desperate need to lash out the anger it causes, and eventually turns him into a murderer. However, his fear of the Gaze does not stop with murder, as the reader learns that while he is trying to hide the the body, he comes up with ways "so cleverly, so cunningly, that no human eye -not even his- could have detected anything wrong" (Poe 13), revealing the superstitious side of the problem.

The alienation due to the gaze of the other plays an instrumental part in Dostoyevski's Notes from the Underground. In the text, the protagonist, the Underground Man is depicted as a misanthropic individual in seclusion. Although the reasoning behind this isolation is not explicitly given, -as he constantly employs contradictory statements-, his never-ending cruel self-assesments sound very much like the judgements of other people. For instance, in the very first sentence of the text he describes himself as sick and unattractive, suggesting that he may have been called those names before. Furthermore, both his refusal to go to the doctor, which results in the self-diagnosis of his clearly worsening liver condition, and his confession about how he is unable to look people straight in the face without immediately turning his head away, show that his whole outlook of life is clearly based on "l'enfer c'est les autres" (No Exit 93), which pinpoints the Gaze as one of the Underground Man's major problems.



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Dostoyevski, Fyodor. Notes from the Underground. Translated by Jessie Coulson. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1972.
Kafka, Franz. “The Judgement.” 40 Short Stories: A Portable Anthology. Third Edition. Ed. Beverly Lawn. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 2009.
Poe. Edgar Allan. "The Tell-Tale Heart." The Gold Bug and Other Stories. New York: Dover Publications Inc., 1991.
Sartre. Jean-Paul. Being and Nothingness: An Essay on Phenomenological Ontology. New York: Washington Square Press, 1966.
---. No Exit. New York: Vintage Books, 1955.
The Dark Knight. Dir. Christopher Nolan. Perf. Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Warner Brothers, 2008.