Edgar Allen Poe Essay, Research Paper
The influences of Edgar Allen Poe
Edgar Allen Poe is considered to be one of the best when it comes to Early American Literature. He is most famous for the short stories and poems that he had written. The question posed here is why did Edgar Allen Poe write poems and short stories that are filled with horror and the presence of Death. Many believe that it was his addiction to alcohol and the events that he had to endure during his lifetime. Events such as the death of his mother and abandonment of his father at an early age could vary well be the answer to this question. Such events could be horrifying for anyone but the fact that the effects are showing through his works and those influences could be the reason that he is one of the most popular writers in American Literature. Edgar s addiction to alcohol was his flaw that turned out to be fatal. His need for alcohol was so strong it caused the loss of one of the women he so dearly loved. Poe has been accused of using the drug opium, but in reality it was his narrators (www.eapoe.org, 1997). This is commonly confused or misinterpreted that Edgar himself used the drug to the point where he became addicted.
Poe is known as the father of the American short story and father of the detective story. To understand the literary contributions of Edgar Allan Poe, one must look at his early life and a summary of two of his famous works. “Edgar Allan Poe was born in Boston on January 19, 1809″ (eapoe.org1997). He was born to a southern family that were in a traveling company of actors. His father, David Poe, was from a Baltimore family, he was an actor by profession and a heavy drinker. Soon after Edgar Allan Poe was born, he left his family. Poe’s mother, Elizabeth Arnold Poe, was a widow at the age of eighteen. Two years after his birth, she died of tuberculosis (eapoe.org1997).
When his mother died, Poe was adopted by John Allan who was convinced to do so by his wife Frances Allen. At the age of five Edgar began his formal education under Elizabeth Fisher. He then graduated and moved on to the school of Mr. William Ewing for a brief period of time.(eapoe.org,1997)
In 1815, John Allan moved his family to England. While there, Poe was sent to private schools such as the school of Misses Dubourg where he studied geography, spelling, and the Catechism of the Church of England. Poe was moved around schools more than others for some unknown reason. Again Poe switched schools now attending the Manor House School ran by the Reverend John Brandsby. Here Edgar studied languages and dancing.(eapoe.org1997)
In 1820 Poe returned to America with his family aboard the Martha. After a short break from school he then entered the school Joseph H Clarke. Two years later he would then switch to the school of William Burke. In the spring of 1826, Poe entered the University of Virginia. There he studied Spanish, French, Italian, and Latin. He had an excellent scholastic record, Mr. Allan did not provide him with the money to pay for his fees and other necessities. Edgar became confused and homesick so for recreation Poe learned to play cards and started drinking. Soon he was in debt in excess of two thousand dollars. Poe discovered that he could not depend upon Allan for financial support. His foster father refused to pay his debts, and Poe had to withdraw from the University (Des Chenes,193)
In May of 1827, Poe enlisted in the army as a common soldier. He did this under the name of Edgar A. Perry for yet again an unknown reason. He was stationed on Sullivan’s Island in Charleston Harbor for over a year. Poe adapted very well to military discipline and quickly rose to the rank of regimental sergeant major. After a while, he got tired of the same daily routine involved in military life. Poe wrote regularly to Mr. Allan and met with him after the death of Mrs. Allan in February of 1829. With Allan’s support, he received his discharge and enlisted in West Point on July 1, l830 (eapoe.org1997). While at West Point, Mr. Allan, who had remarried, continued in not providing Poe with the money that he needed. Poe decided to have himself kicked out of school. Cutting classes and disregarding orders were his methods of doing so. He was court-martialed for neglect of duties in January, 1831, and left West Point the following month (eapoe.org1997). Poe was well educated and now considered himself to be ready to enter the literary world. Throughout his educational years Poe worked on many literary works which were published towards the end of his schooling years.
Poe was great in three different fields, and in each one he made a reputation that would give any man a high place in literary history. Poe wrote great short stories, famous not only in his own country, but all over the world (Regon 103). Hawthorne, Irving, Balzac, Bierce, Crane, Hemingway and other writers have given us memorable short stories; but none has produced so great a number of famous and unforgettable examples, so many tales that continue, despite changing standards to be read and reprinted again and again throughout the world. Poe was the father of the modern short story, and the modern detective story. With the possible exception of Guy de Maupassant, no other writer is so universally known and esteemed for so large of a corpus of excellent tales as in Edgar Allan Poe (Magill 2612)
In 1831, Poe succeeded in publishing a new edition of his poems entitled, Poems. Poe went to New York, but could find no job there. Eventually he took refuge with his aunt, Mrs. Clemm, in Baltimore. There he decided to seek employment and make his living by writing. Failing to get attention with his poems, he decided to start writing short stories.(eapoe.org1997) Poe competed in a contest for the best short story in 1831. The prize was offered by Phil-Saturday Courier. Because he did not win the prize, Poe started on an ambitious project. He decided to plan a series of tales told by members of a literary group. He found no publisher for his stories, and entered the contest again in June of 1835. This time he sent one poem and six stories (Des chenes 199). His story, “Ms. Found in a Bottle,” won , and he received one hundred dollars for it (Eapoe.org). Through the influence of one of the judges, John P. Kennedy, Poe became employed as an editor of the Southern Literary Messenger, published in Richmond (eapoe.org). Under Poe’s editorship, the Messenger ’s circulation rose from 500 to 3500. While in Richmond, Poe married his cousin, Virginia, was not quite fourteen years old. Poe was fired from the Messenger in January of 1837probally because of his relationship with his cousin which was seen as being disgustingly crude and brought criticism to the magazine.
Poe then went to New York, where he was unsuccessful again. In the summer of 1838, he moved to Philadelphia. While in Philadelphia, he worked as the editor of both Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine and Graham’s Magazine (eapoe.org1997). Even though he won a one hundred dollar prize for “The Gold Bug” he moved back to New York. Poe found a job in New York as an assistant editor for the Evening Mirror. This was where “The Raven” first appeared on January 29, 1845. The poem immediately caught the imagination of the public and was reprinted all over the country and even abroad in all kinds of newspapers and magazines, but Poe pocketed only a few dollars for his poems (eapoe.org). The year of 1845 was a lucky year for Poe. He published a collection of his Tales and an edition of his poems named The Raven and Other Poems . He also became the editor of the weekly Broadway Journal. Poe broke down when Virginia died in January of 1848, he was not able to regain his confidence as a writer. This is when Poe went on his final drinking binge. He was found in a disgraceful state where he was then taken to Baltimore where he died in Washington College Hospital.
In the “Masque of the Red Death”, Poe uses his imagination throughout the story. A plague has devastated the entire country. It takes only half an hour for the course of the disease to run. At first one feels sharp pains and dizziness. Then one starts bleeding at the pores. The disease results in death. Prince Prospero has ordered one thousand lords and ladies to the deep seclusion of one of his abbeys. The building was built by the Prince and is filled with his exotic ornaments. It is sealed from the outside world by a huge wall with iron gates. Inside the building are dancers, musicians, and everything they need in order to stay secluded until the plague runs its course. After six months of seclusion, the Prince decides to hold a masked ball. The ball is held in a suite
with seven rooms. Each room is decorated in a single color. The last room is decorated in red. Within this room stands a huge clock that strikes the hour with a heavy clang. The rooms are very crowded for the ball. At the stroke of midnight, a guest is seen in a costume of the red death itself and this frightens the other guests. The Prince is angered at what he believes to be a practical joke. He orders the stranger seized and hanged from the battlements. Prince Prospero follows the stranger into the red chamber. It is there that Prince Prospero falls dead at the feet of the stranger. The others capture the unknown person in the costume. To their horror they find there is no living form in the costume. One by one they die until no one else remains.
The horror abysmal darkness, and absolute helplessness befalling the victims are described with vivid accuracy in tales such as The Fall of the House of Usher, The Cask of Amontillado, and The Premature Burial. In “The Fall of the House of Usher,” the narrator visits his insane friend, Roderick Usher. Usher’s house is huge and gloomy. His twin sister, Madeline, gets sick and dies. The narrator and Usher place her in a tomb in the basement of Usher’s house. What they do not realize is that she is still barely alive. Usher keeps on hearing sounds over the next couple of days. The seventh day after Madeline’s death, a bad storm appears. The narrator and Usher open the door of the narrator’s room and Madeline falls on Usher . They both die. The narrator then leaves the house. As he rides away, the house collapses to the floor.
Edgar Allen Poe was a raging alcoholic and was not able to rid his terrible habit, not even for the woman who he so dearly wanted to marry. Because of this addiction when his proposal was turned downed only a short while after it was accepted by Sarah Whittman. Many could say that alcohol eventually lead to Edgar’s demise although his life was not full of drunken periods it was still enough to destroy his life. The Poe family could be thought of having an alcohol problem. This is because Edgar’s brother and his biological father were both known to have drinking problems. This is most common among alcoholic is to have a parent who had a problem with alcohol. Alcohol could not considered to be an influence for Edgar because his writings were so elaborately constructed. This is the only reason that it was not considered to be an influence in his writings.
The other addiction that Edgar was known to possess was one of opium. Although this does not have the hard evidence that Poe being an alcoholic has it is still brought up to the attention of many critiques. Others may believe that he was not an avid user of opium but rather he would only use the drug when he was around the narrators of his stories.(eapoe.org1997)
Many people believe that Edgar Allen Poe s works were not completed while he was under the influence of the drugs and alcohol. Mostly due to the fact that his work was done so carefully and so fluidly that nobody would be able to even read and understand them if they were impaired by the use of drugs or Alcohol (eapoe.org1997).
The position that Poe had held in the society that he lived in was one that not many were able to achieve. He was well respected as a writer and an editor but the events that take place in his life damper the value he was worth to American literature. Poe maybe considered to be one of the best an most popular writers. His style of writing was what separated him from the rest of the writers who lived during his time. The almost perverted lifestyle that Poe lived could have been the most dominating influence that Poe had. The marriage of his cousin, the opium use, being an alcoholic, being adopted, and the death of his parents are all considered to be major influences in his writings. Ever the more the most dominate reason that Poe wrote such dark and mysterious works of art was his unique imagination. With out his unique imagination Poe would have not become as famous as he did. Although his style of writing was different that would not have been enough alone to separate him from the rest of the popular American writers during his time.
The most influential person in Edgar s life may vary well have been himself. This is supported by the strong willed person that Poe was believed to have been. Many critiques may disagree with that statement because of the fact that he was a dependent on alcohol that he consumed during his life. What it essentially comes down to is that Poe was a human being with a background that was unique to his time period. Weather or not that this had a dramatic influence on Poe s writings is a question that has no strongly supported answer.
Edgar Allen Poe s death was not that much of a shock to the world because everyone knew of his addiction to alcohol. There is some irony in his death, that being the thing that blemished Poe s career was that vary thing that would eventually take his life. When Poe was in the hospital on his death bed he was not visited by many and the people that he felt the most compassion for had already died before him. It was a sad and pitiful death for Poe as it would have been for anyone. Because of his dedication to alcohol he drank himself to the point where he was not able to take care of himself properly and was at the point where illness could very easily destroy his body in this case it did.
The culture of his time period was not one known to have advanced medical treatment like there is today which left many sick people with no chance of survival. Thus the death of Edgar was one that could not have been prevented. Hospitals in the mid -eighteen hundreds were unable to treat cases similar to the illness that Poe had brought upon himself. Another fact about the
culture of that time period is that the people were that lived during this time were always looking for something that would separate themselves from others but still wanted to apart of the norm. The norm being that of class and elegance. Also this was a time of invention and of great leaders of the American country. Poe didn t exactly fit into the standard that was formed by the people of this time era because of his infatuation with death and torture. This too is more than likely to be a possible explanation for the imagination of Edgar Allen Poe.
Work Cited Page
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Magill, Frank. Critical Survey of Poetry . Pasadena .
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Regon, Robert. POE. Engleewood
Prentice- Hall Inc. 1967