, Research Paper
Edgar Allan Poe s Life Experiences as an Influence in his Writings
By: Terry Friedmann
Edgar Allan Poe is one of the most influential writers in the history of literature. Poe has done everything from criticisms to short story writing during his life as a writer. Although the life he led was one of poverty and disappointment, Poe manages to make himself a cozy spot in our history. Throughout the life of Edgar Allan Poe, many of his more impressionable experiences have been used for inspiration in his short story writings.
In 1808, when Edgar Allan Poe was born, his mother and father were actively pursuing a life of acting on the road [Edgar Allan Poe: Genius in Torment pp23-24.] In 1811 when Edgar was only three years old, his mother became ill and died at the same time as his father. This event could very well be where Poe got the ending in his famous short story The Fall of the House of Usher. The Fall of the House of Usher is a story about a man who is visiting a friend and his friend s sister. During the visit the sister was mistakenly believed to have died. The two friends then unwittingly bury her in an old gunpowder room. Soon after the burial the sister claws her way out of the grave and makes it upstairs, only to die in the hands of her brother, who coincidently dies from fright at the exact same moment. To quote, but then [outside] those doors [the] figure of the lady Madeline of Usher…[with] blood upon her white robes with a low moaning cry, fell heavily inward upon the person of her brother and in her now final death agonies, bore him to the floor a corpse [American Literature pp 146.] This story is one example of Poe s ability to take the worst fears of his readers and create them on paper.
After Poe s parents died, he eventually made his way into the house of Mr. And Mrs. John Allen. John Allen enrolled Poe into many boarding schools during Poe s childhood. In these boarding schools Poe learns to be a bright and athletic student. At one school run by Mrs. Dubourg, Poe often saw black raven s sitting in the Tower of London. Those ravens have become the supporting character in the poem The Raven which is believed by many critics to be Poe s best writing. The Raven was originally written using an owl as the supporting character, but due to his experiences at the boarding school, visiting a bird store in Philadelphia where there was a tame raven, and the raven s natural ability to talk, he changed the character to a raven [Edgar Allan Poe: Visitor From the Night of Time pp 95.] Poe also uses his ability to manipulate human fear through his writings in his poem The Raven. One example of this ability is in the line, Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary, over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore [American Literature pp127.] In this line Edgar Allan Poe uses the setting of a classic horror story with the time as midnight, creating a mysterious air. Also Poe has the main character reading scary stories, which may make him more susceptible to believe strange happenings.
In later stories, Poe does not always use his talent for describing frightening and grotesque images in his short story writings. In a poem entitled To Helen he speaks about a mother of one of his friends, Helen of Troy, using a romantic style of writing. Poe uses many peaceful images in this poem such as a perfumed sea. Poe uses a tight literary form in this poem like he does in many of his poems. Helen, thy beauty is to me, most likely signifies that this person is what Poe sees as truly beautiful.
Poe lived a life of extreme poverty, surviving part of it on the monthly pension of his grandmother, and yet becomes one of histories greatest writers using his life experiences as inspiration to his short story writings. His parents dieing at the same moment has been the inspiration behind The Fall of the House of Usher where both brother and sister die at the same time. The ravens that sit upon the Tower of London have been inspiration in his poem The Raven. Finally, a friend s mother has been an inspiration in the poem, The Raven.
Jacobs, William Jay. Edgar Allan Poe: Genius in Torment. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1975.
Stern, Philip Van Doren. Edgar Allan Poe: Visitor From the Night of Time. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1973.
Macmillan Literature Series. American Literature. New York: Scribner Educational Publishers, 1987.