Edgar Allen Poe 5 Essay, Research Paper
Edgar Allan Poe is a man who is considered to be a true American genius of our time. After reading one of his works in class, I realized that his mysterious style of writing appealed to me. His works have been collected and celebrated for over a hundred years from this day. He was a man whose dreary horror tales captured and frightened the minds of millions. Poe differed from most other acclaimed writers. The readers of his work do not admire him because they fall in love with his characters or because his writing touches their hearts. On the contrary, his readers admire him because he managed to change reality for them. Edgar Allan Poe s skill was developed in his subject matter of death and its horrid truths. Poe s tales centered away from the life of a man and towards the effects of death on a man, whether it be his own, or that of another. Poe was adept at creating an atmosphere of suspense and the minimum use of words and dramatic effects. Although many critics have different views on Poe s writing style, I think that Harold Bloom summed it up best when he said, Poe has an uncanny talent for exposing our common nightmares and hysteria lurking beneath our carefully structured lives (Bloom, 7).
Poe was born in Boston on January 19, 1809. Poe s father abandoned the family shortly before his mother s death, which was December 8, 1811. John Allen, a wealthy tobacco merchant in Richmond, brought Poe into the family (at his wife s request), and gave him the middle name Allen as a baptismal name, though he never formally adopted him. Allen s treatment toward Poe is not exactly known, we know that Allen never treated Poe with sensitivity. In 1815, the Allen family moved to England on business. There, Poe entered the Manor-House School in Stoke-Newington, a London suburb. He was taught the gothic architecture and historical landscape of the region, which made a deep imprint on his youthful imagination, and effected his adult writings. The Allen s left England in June 1820, and arrived in Richmond on August 2. Poe entered the English and Classical School of Joseph H. Clarke, a graduate of Trinity College in Dublin. On February 14, 1826, Poe entered the University of Virginia. Even though Poe spent more time drinking and gambling than studying, he won top honors in French and Latin ( Knapp 35).
One May 25, 1827, Poe enlisted in the U.S. Army under the name Edgar A. Perry. He joined Battery H of the 1st Artillery, then stationed at Fort Independence. While Poe served there, Calvin F.S. Thomas printed Poe s first book. Tamerlane and Other Poems , a slim volume, which failed to earn any fame or money. Poe then visited Baltimore, and arranged for the printing of another slim volume, entitled Al Aaron, Tamerlane, and Minor Poems . Then, Allen obtained an appointment for him as a cadet so on July 1, 1830, he entered West Point Military Academy, making his residence at No. 28 in the South Barracks. Poe s military career, however, flopped. After his dismissal, he published a third volume of poetry, this one dedicated to the US Corps of Cadets , for he had taken a subscription from them to raise funds. Poe then settled in Baltimore with his Aunt Marie Clemm, and her family. Poe tried looking for work as a teacher, but failed to find a job. Finally he was hired as an editor at The Southern Literary Messenger in which he published short stories, poems, and ascorbic literary reviews. In May he married his cousin, Virginia.
The rest of his life, Poe suffered from severe mental depression and declining physical health. In 1838, he published his only novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym . In December 1839, he lost his job because of the intense rumors of his excessive drinking habits. By late 1846, financial woes and Poe s own continuing decline ended the magazine. In January 1847, his wife died in their cottage at Fordham. This made his poverty and instability worse. He continued to write and engaged in unsuccessful publishing schemes and romances, until, October 3, 1849, Joseph W. Walker found him unconscious, in the street. Poe remained hospitalized oscillating between a somatic state and violent delirium, until his death at 5 a.m. on October 7, 1849.
Poe s literature hardly relates to the harsh realities of the 19th century life. The dark, chaotic, romantic worlds he created represent an escape from the real, unromantic miseries of life to a place where miseries become grand, beautiful things. Most of Poe s characters are lonely and mentally distressed people. Most of his characters try to escape the real world and try to enter the insane world they create. By the end of the poems, the characters are considered completely insane or death comes to them. In most cases the main character or the narrator of the story usually enter the insane world, but sometimes he manages to escape and come back to reality. Poe s history included a sadly large collection of dying women in his life. First came his mother, Elizabeth Poe, later followed by Jane Standard, Frances Allan, and Virginia Clemm (which was his wife). All these women were very close to Poe, and he was in love with most of them (Buranelli 68). The topic of dying women certainly affected Poe. He came to see their deaths as a sort of tragic romantic beauty. Poe believed that the tone of the highest beauty in poetry is sadness and that melancholy. Poe s notion of the function of melancholy in poetry leads him to ask himself what is the most melancholy of subjects. He was quoted to say, Death, when it most closely allies itself to beauty: the death, then of a beautiful woman is, unquestionably, the most poetical topic in the world and equally is it beyond doubt that the lips best suited by such a topic are those of a bereaved lover (Thompson 10). Poe wrote many poems, short stories, and short prose pieces. His short stories and prose allow him more leeway with his words to make chills run down the spine of anyone who reads it.
Poe s best known works include such masterpieces as Annabel Lee, The Raven, The Fall of the House of Usher, The Mask of the Red Death, The Murders of the Rue Morgue, and many others. Each and every one of these titles, among others, share the common trait that is more than evident, they all deal with death. When these titles monopolize the attention, it is only natural that the central body of Poe s work should be seen to be a tissue of nightmares. This subject is so repulsive to mankind, yet at the same time it attracts so many people. Perhaps it isn t the subject, but the skill with which it was written that lured people to it. Fish are lured to a deadly hook but the bait makes it beautiful. In this same manner, the beauty and genius of Poe s work mesmerize people. The better question is what is it that drove Poe to become so obsessed with death? Why is it that he portrayed his genius through this topic? The only true way to answer these questions is through a deep analysis of not only Poe s works, but his life and his mind.
In conclusion, Poe was the creator of the short story. The short story may have existed before, but Poe perfected it. Even though he perished in a sad and lonely death, he was a genius at his work. He was truly America s greatest terror and horror writer. So I restate that Poe was one of the greatest writers that ever lived and his mind was of a genius and it should never have been put to such torture by the criticism of human kind. His mind was very precious and all we can do now is feel sorry for him, because being such a gifted writer he shouldn t have died in such a lonely and sad state.