Short stories of the Romantic period generally demonstrate one of two contrasting qualities: realism or a preoccupation with fantasy and the supernatural. Maupassant's "Horla" and Pushkin's "Queen of Spades" both embodied fantastic elements; however in my view, the supernatural in these stories reflects distorted reality and sickness of its characters. Horla's character is a clinical example of schizophrenia, Herman in turn, is also maniacally possessed in a way that endanger his well being.
Both authors take different approach to describing their main characters. We know very little about "Horla's" main character; his name and looks and his occupation. Maupassaunt tries to direct reader's attention on the inner world of the character. Pushkin's character is a young officer. "Hermann was the son of a German who had become a Naturalized Russian, and from whom he had inherited a small capital" Pushkin tells us that Herman is an ambitious young officer, and that his looks resemble Napoleon very much "In this attitude he bore a striking resemblance to the portrait of Napoleon."
Pushkin's hero becomes possessed after he heard the story about three winning cards:
"The story of the three cards had produced a powerful impression upon his imagination, and all night long he could think of nothing else. "If," he thought to himself the following evening, as he walked along the streets of St. Petersburg, "if the old Countess would but reveal her secret to me! if she would only tell me the names of the three winning cards"
I think that the story about three winning cards gave a spark to Hermann's already fiery imagination. Very interesting that Pushkin tells us that a story about countess and three cards is not necessarily true, rather a tale. Hermann, however, after dreaming about cards, green tables, and pockets filled with gold and banknotes has no doubt in mind about truthfulness of it. He sees an opportunity in a face of Lizaveta Ivanovna and sends her a poem that was a word for word piece from a German novel. It sounds very unconvincing, somehow ironic, for Lizaveta, who does not speak German, but dreaming of big love and a savior. So things turn out luckily for Hermann and he finally gets a chance to get into the countess's house. He is so eager to get the names of the three cards that he gets angry at old countess reply about the story being a joke.
Pushkin emphasis of Herman's imagination is a first evidence of Hermann's deepening insanity. His first hallucination happened at the countess's funeral, and then a ghost of dead countess appeared to him itself. After that he became compulsive neurotic, not being able to function socially anymore. Hermann was now playing cards. At that point, the idea of first two cards winning was what made a story truly fantastic.
Maupassaunt's hero gets sick as a result of dissociation of personality. I could make a suggestion from his diaries that he lived alone (besides his servants), did not have anyone to communicate with, so analyzing and self- questioning became a habit. His diary was a way to communicate with himself. He was fully aware of his sickness:
"Some unknown disturbance must have taken place in my brain, one of those disturbances which modern physiologists are trying to examine and elucidate; and this disturbance has presumably opened up a deep chasm in my mind, in the logical order of my ideas.(Maupassaunt,331)
He is overwhelmed with fears about his safety:
"About two o'clock I go up to my room. I am no sooner inside than I double lock the door and shoot the bolts. I am afraid... but of what?... I was never afraid of anything before... I open my wardrobes, I look under my bed, and I listen...I listen to what?... "(Maupassaunt,315)
And again, he tries to explain his fears:
"Isn't it strange that a slight indisposition, a disorder of the circulation perhaps, an irritation of the nerves, a little congestion, a small disturbance in the delicate, imperfect functioning of the human machine, can make a melancholic of the happiest of men and a coward of the bravest? " (Maupassaunt, 316)
Slowly he realizes that the invisible invader have taken possession of not only his house but himself, too.(Maupassant probably describes his own experience here)
Interesting that every detail mentioned in this story has its tie to the character's illness. The monk's tale of a ghost appearing near Mount Saint-Michel and the story of
a sÃÂ©ance in Paris both serve gradually to strip away the narrator's skepticism. By the time that the climax is reached, every detail of the story has been found to play an important role in advancing a sense of horror. He decides to kill Horla. What he does not realize that Horla is his second self, the one that controlling and horrifying him. After the attempt to catch and burn Horla inside the house, he finally realizes that he, himself is the main cause of his hallucinations, and the only way to get rid of Horla is to kill himself.
Madness was and still is a very controversial subject. Scientists argue whether madness is caused by chemical reactions in the brain, or is it a disease of a human soul.
Both authors in their masterpiece stories give a psychological profile of insane person and problems associated with insanity. They show the cause and extent that drives mad person, whether it's committing a suicide or horrifying crime and impact that it has on mad person's functioning as a social individual.