Social Learning Theory On Edgar Allen Poe

Essay, Research Paper

Edgar Allen Poe is one of the greatest poets in our time. In alone everything he loved, he loved alone. He struggled through his whole life through death, envy, sorrow, and illusion. He was different from others and very depressed. The social learning theory by Albert Bandura and Julian Rotter will explain the thoughts, feelings, experiences, and behavior of Edgar Allen Poe.

Edgar Allan Poe was born in, Massachusetts, on January 19, 1809, the

second son of traveling actors. There is no record of his father after 1810 and

his mother returning to the southern circuit, died a year later from tuberculosis.

Edgar spilt up from his elder brother and younger sister. His elder brother and is

wife, mother and grandmother all died of tuberculosis. He was taken into a

household of a virginain Tobacco Merchant, John Allen, whose name Poe was

adopted 1824. He went to England with the Allen family in 1815 and while

there he attended a school in Stoke Newington, yet Poe relationship with his

foster father was uneasy and was put under great strain when he returned to

Richmond. John was lying in his deathbed waving his stick yelling at Edgar.

John took everything out the will and gave it to charity. Poe was broke.

Bandura suggests that human behavior is due to a reciprocal determinism that involves behavioral, cognitive, and environmental factors. For example, Poe married his thirteen-year-old cousin, Virgina Clemms. His life and behavior changed Poe. Poe was happy, he was madly in love like children running in the meadows, and having picnics under a tree. Poe was teaching her how to play the flute and taught her algebra. Then the environment changed. One day in the house a friend of Poe?s was there for dinner and Poe?s wife sang for him. Than she began to cough blood and Poe feared the worst. He called a doctor and the doctor told Poe that his wife is dying of tuberculosis. Poe became very depressed. After his wife?s death in 1847, Poe behavior became very unstable and his dependence on alcohol increased. Bandura uses the term self-system. The self in social learning theory is a group of cognitive processes and structures by which people relate to their environment and that help to shape their behavior. In Poe?s case he used to sleep next to the tomb of his wife in the cemetery.

Virgina was a model in Poe?s life. The characteristics of the model affect imitation. We are more likely to be influenced by someone who we believe is similar to ourselves. For example, Virgina is thirteen and Poe felt like a kid again when he was with his wife. He was like a kid running around the meadows. Before meeting Virgina, Poe resorted to gambling in an attempt to try and support him self, but was forced to leave college. Edgar was gambling and drinking with the students. Poe was in debt of 20,000. He lost more then he won and then borrowed to cover his debts. After a violent fight with his foster father over the choice of career, Poe went to Boston. Later he got a job as an editor on the southern literary messenger. During his time with the periodical he did much to increase its readership but was later sacked because of his excessive drinking. Then Poe met Virgina. In social learning by bandura the attributes of the observer also influence modeling. People who are lacking in self-esteem or who are incompetent are especially prone to imitate a model. Poe knew the reward consequences associated with a behavior influence the effectiveness of the modeling. Poe was more likely to imitate a behavior because he believed that such actions would lead to positive short-or long ?term results. Which meant Poe wasn?t depressed anymore and was having fun having picnics under the tree.

Poe had little extrinsic reinforment and no vicarious reinforcement. Poe?s work went unnoticed. But in 1845 he published, ?The Raven?, for 14 dollars. It brought him some recognition but unfortunately it was not enough to sustain his wife Virgina financially. Poe was mostly alone so he couldn?t learn the appropriate behavior from success and mistakes of others. But Poe was had instrinic reinforcement. For example, the theme of death in much of Poe?s work, including ?The Fall of the House of Usher,? may have been a direct reflection of Poe?s personal encounters with death. His psychological and emotional wellbeing had been influential in the writing of ?The Fall of the House of Usher.? As Bandura stated, it is not the behavior itself or the feedback that is rewarding, but how we feel about it. So Poe expressed his thoughts through writing. The self-satisfaction sustains the practice of the behavior.

Bandura has developed and elaborated on the concept of self-efficacy, people?s belief that they can successfully perform behaviors that will produce desired effects. Poe found success editing Burton?s Gentleman?s Magazine from 1839-1840 and then Graham?s Magazine from 1841-1842 (Quinn 74). During this time, Poe delivered lectures on American poetry, published thirty-six tales including “William Wilson,? The Masque of the Red Death,? and ?The Murders in the Rue Morgue,? and also released a collection of stories in 1840 entitled Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque. It was during this peak of Poe?s publishing career that he published ?The Fall of the House of Usher.? Bandura states, self-efficacy is one component of social cognitive theory. It plays a central role in governing our thoughts, motivation, and actions. Self-efficacy arises from past accomplishments that serve as indicators of ability, from vicarious experiences that alter our beliefs through comparison with others, from social influences. One thing that I believe had a strong impact in Poe?s life is what Bandura said about self-efficacy.

Julian Rotter spoke about internal versus external control of reinforcement. I believe that Edgar Allen Poe was an External. Externals are more like to conform and prefer not to have to make a choice. Externals tend to be more anxious and depressed, as well as more vulnerable to stress. They develop defensive strategies and invite failure in coping with a task and use defensive strategies afterward to explain their failures. They attribute their lack of success to bad luck or the difficulties of the task. Poe was faced severe poverty with total earnings amounting to fewer than one hundred fifty dollars (Quinn 74). Poe did not find satisfaction, for neither Burton?s magazine or Graham?s met expectations of his ideal publication. Poe was frustrated with his career and aspired to edit a magazine of his own, a magazine of a higher class than that of Burton?s or Graham?s (Quinn 75). He strove towards the publication of his own magazine, which he would call the Penn and later change to Stylus, but Poe soon discovered his attempt would be useless. He blamed his failure on George Rex Graham, Poe?s employer, who agreed to financially support the Penn, but then withdrew his backing. Although it was during this time that Poe was most successful in terms of publishing his work, he was not financially prosperous. His best earning year, he probably made about $1,100 just above poverty level wages by the standard of the time (Quinn 694). Poe is not an internal because internal s are more likely to lead to good physical and emotional health and to take positive steps to improve their health such as quitting smoking, avoiding substance abuse, and engaging in regular exercise. Poe was raised in a drinking society. It had been said that a single glass of wine would get Poe drunk and although this may not be exactly accurate, it can be said that one drink would affect him visibly. Poe also used opium.

Finally a depressed and erratic Poe attempted suicide in 1848 and tragically died in 1849, five days after being found in a delirious and semi-conscious conditions in Baltimore. Poe was not wearing his clothes; he was wearing someone else?s clothes. The clothes were too small for him. Then he was taken to Washington College Hospital. Poe was talking to the walls in his bedroom, but nobody was there. On the early Sunday morning, October 7, five in the morning, Poe spoke his last words, ?God help my poor soul? and then he died. They are 22 explanations for his death.

So in my conclusion, Albert Bandura said human behavior is due to a reciprocal determinism that involves behavioral, cognitive, and environmental factors. I spoke about the three factors that influence modeling: characteristics of the model, attributes of the observer, and reward consequences associated with the behavior. Also a role in observational learning: extrinsic, intrinsic, and vicarious reinforcement. Finally, Self- efficacy by Bandura. I briefly touched the topic of Julian Rotters I-E scale to measure internal versus external control of reinforement in Edgar Allen Poe?s life.

Peeples, Scott. Edgar Allan Poe Revisited. New York: Twayne, 1998.

Quinn, Arthur Hobson. Edgar Allan Poe: A Critical Biography. New York: Coopers Square Publishers, 1969.

Wagenknecht, Edward. Edgar Allan Poe: The Man Behind the Legend. New York: Oxford UP, 1963.


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