Phyllis Wheatley Essay, Research Paper
Through out the course of American literature many authors have used poetry as their means of expressing feelings and emotions. Edgar Allan Poe and Phillis Wheatley wrote during two different centuries, Wheatley during the eighteenth century and Poe during the nineteenth century. They both used poetry as their form of expression. Both authors were considered neoclassical poets. Neoclassicism is considered a revival of classicism. The dictionary definition for classicism is, a set of aesthetic values developed through imitations of greek and roman art, emphasis on reason, sophisticated simplicity, self restraint, logical structure and imitation of standard models (Heritage, 162). I this essay I will analyze a variety of works from Phillis Wheatley and Edgar Allan Poe and discuss how their experiences were a like yet different in so many ways.
Phillis Wheatley was a black slave born in Africa and brought to Boston in 1761 She wrote poetry that introduced two traditions at once; the Black American Literary tradition and the Black Women s Literary tradition. Both of these events were unique in the history of literature during her time period. In her poem On Being Brought from Africa to America:
Twas mercy brought to me from my Pagan land,
Taught my benighted soul to understand
That there s a God, that there s a Savior too:
Once I redemption neither sought nor knew.
Some view our sable race with scornful eye,
Their colour is a diabolic die
Remember, Christians, Negroes, black as Cain,
May be refined and join th angelic train. (Wheatley, 1104)
Phillis Wheatley expresses happiness in being brought from Africa to America. While other people of her time period regretted that they were being taken form their homeland against their will. Wheatley says that this experience makes her realize that there is a God and a Savior (Wheatley, 1104).
Phillis Wheatley began writing in 1765 and published her first works when she was about fourteen years old, in Newport, Rhode Island. Phillis Wheatley had trouble getting her works published in her own town of Boston. Her works were not published due to the fact that she was a Negroes. During the eighteenth century in Boston a Negro could have written the best piece of work in history, but if people found out that a Negro wrote it they did not even touch it. Only a few of Wheatley s works were published before her death in 1784 (Heath, 1095). Phillis Wheatley thought of herself as an artist as did Edgar Allan Poe.
Edgar Allan Poe, also from Boston, although he was born there. He was orphaned by his parents at the age of two and a half, and raised by a man named John Allan. John cared for Edgar until he reached his sophomore year in college and then abandoned him. John abandoned him because he did not approve of the fact that Poe wanted the be a writer.
In Poe s later years he was said to be a drunk, drug addict, lunatic and sometimes a murderer due to the way he wrote his stories and poetry. He usually wrote in the first person therefore many people interpreted his I as personal experiences (Heath, 1440). That is the reason why his works were not accepted by many. In the Tell-Tale Heart Poe says, I made up my mind to take the life of the old man and rid myself of the eye forever (Heath, 1485). In this work Poe talks about how an old man had and eye of a vulture that he felt was watching him so he had to kill the old man so that he could get away from the eye. But after he kills the man he can not get rid of the sound of the old man s beating heart. Many readers thought that Poe had gotten this work form personal experiences when in actuality it was fiction and he was shunned for it.
The two authors differed in their style of writing and the events and topics that they wrote about, but they both had similar struggles as writers and as people. Phillis Wheatley was taken from her homeland and brought to an unfamiliar place, which she loved. Edgar Allan Poe was abandoned by his parents and raised by someone whom he grew to love and adore. Wheatley s works were not accepted because she was black. Poe s works were not accepted because of the style in which he wrote. Either way we look at the situations, both authors were not accepted due to the fact that people did not accept their individual differences. Wheatley s skin color and Poe s writing style.
Edgar Allan Poe and Phillis Wheatley were both considered neo-classical writers; the only difference is that they were from two different centuries. Wheatley wrote in a tone in which she took the time to emphasize on reason and understand her surroundings. Poe s writing emphasized on feelings and emotions. These were two writers shunned due to circumstances that they could not control.
The American Heritage Dictionary, 3d ed. (1994)
, s.v. Houghton Mufflin
Lauter, Paul, ed. The Heath Anthology of American Literature.
Houghton Mufflin, 1998