comedic short story

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Let’s learn together about Edgar Allan Poe and his work. 28

The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether is a comedic short story written by American author Edgar Allan Poe. At the time this story was written, care for the insane was a highly political issue. People were calling for asylum reform because the mentally ill were treated like prisoners, while increased acquittals due to the insanity defense were being criticized for allowing criminals to avoid punishment.

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The story follows an unnamed narrator who visits a mental institution in southern France known for a revolutionary new method of treating mental illnesses called the “system of soothing.” A companion with whom he is travelling knows Monsieur Maillard, the originator of the system, and makes introductions before leaving the narrator. The narrator is shocked to learn that the “system of soothing” has been abandoned recently. He questions this, as he has heard of its success and popularity. Maillard tells him to “believe nothing you hear, and only one half that you see." The narrator tours the grounds of the hospital and is invited to dinner. There, he is joined by twenty-five to thirty other people and a large, lavish spread of food. The other guests, he notices, are dressed somewhat oddly…