Analysis Of Edgar Allen Poe Essay, Research Paper
Edgar Allen Poe was one of the most influential writers of modern day society. He has become known for his tales of the mysterious and macabre and his mastery of short stories. About 12 of his works are known for their flawless literary construction. Poe was a participant in a dysfunctional family that can be recognized for the structure in his writings.
Poe was born on January 19th, 1809 in Boston Massachusetts. He was the son of David Poe, an actor, and Ellen Poe, an actress. At the age of three, Poe was orphaned when his father disappeared and his mother died of tuberculosis. John and Fanny Allen adopted Poe; they were merchants in Richmond, Virginia. At the age of six, Allen sent Poe to a private school in England.
As a teen, Poe was gifted in foreign language. He wrote some of his early works in both French and Latin. At the age of fifteen, he wrote enough works to publish a book, but John Allen would not allow it. Poe was also known for being a gifted swimmer. It has been reported that Poe swam the James River from Lundham s Wharf to Warwick Bar , (Woodberry 42), about 6 miles against a strong current. At the age of 15, Poe was the Lieutenant of the Junior Morgan Riflemen. Poe s Grandfather, General Poe is to be said where Poe gained his influence in the military.
In 1826, Poe enrolled into the University of Virginia. His goal was to be an international translator. He was considered to be precise in his studies and works, as noted by critics later in his works. The student life at the University of Virginia was chaotic at this time. One incident, several students created a riot that threw bottles and bricks at the professors. He often wrote to John Allen. In his writings to Allen, Poe talked of the violence on campus.
By the end of 1826, Poe started to develop a gambling habit. He blamed John Allen for his gambling. Poe claimed that John Allen did not give him enough funds to survive on. Therefore, he began to choose gambling as his profession on the basis of survival. However, very shortly in his gambling career, Poe developed a high debt that forced him to leave the University of Virginia.
Poe moved back to Richmond where he expected John Allen to pay off his debts. John refused. However, John made Poe work at his firm as a clerk until the debts were resolved. In 1827, Poe left the home of John Allen. In a letter to John Allen, Poe wrote I have heard you say when you have little thought, I was listening and therefore I must have said it into the ear that you have no affection for me , (Letters 203).
Poe resorted to gambling once again and gained a higher debt this time. He relocated to Boston shortly thereafter. He was able to publish a book by the name of Timerline , under a pen name.
Later in 1827, Poe enlisted into The United States Army where he was enlisted for 2 years. In 1829, he wrote his second book Aarat . Poe left the army and attempted to reconcile with John Allen. John was convinced and assisted Poe into The West Point Academy. Poe was on there a year where he was dismissed for insubordination of his military duties.
In 1831, Poe moved to Baltimore to live with his cousin and aunt. He was able accomplish another book in this time, Poems by Edgar Allen Poe . His friends at West Point respected him enough as a writer to provide financial assistance for the creation of his third book.
In 1836, Poe married his cousin Virginia Clem from Baltimore, whom he had been living with. Virginia was only the age of thirteen. Shortly after their marriage, Virginia was diagnosed with tuberculosis. She died 10 years later.
As a direct result from his wife s death, Poe became a manic depressant. He became addicted alcohol and various pharmaceutical drugs. He was recognized for using these drugs to calm his nervousness. However, he tried to quit several times and was unsuccessful. In a letter on July 22 1848, Poe wrote It has been a long time since any artificial stimulus has passed my lips , (Letters 239).
Poe was claimed to have been insane or mad. Poe s insanity and madness was mainly credited to lesions to the brain. An example of Poe breaking was when he arrived at John Sartain s office begging for protection from an imaginary army. Poe shaved his mustache so that he would not be recognized. On August 7th, 1849, Poe described his illness, I have suffered worse than death, yet so much form cholera as from its continued consequences in debility and compression of the brain , (Letters 365). Poe s condition escalated.
Poe was brought to Washington Memorial Hospital of Baltimore on October 6, 1849, after being found in the middle of the road. Poe then recited his final poem, Father I firmly do believe I know, for death who comes for me from the regions of blast afar where there is nothing to deceive hath left his iron gate ajar and rays of truth you cannot see are flashing through eternity , (Moran 24).
Poe died the following morning. He was reported that he dyed of Pneumonia, complicated by transient retardation or depression which is excessive prostration affecting the brain and resulting from exposure and encephalitis or inflammation of the brain , (Scarlet 365).
With Poe s burial there has been confusion. He was originally buried next to his Grandfather in Westminister. A headstone was not placed above his grave because it was run over. In 1875, he was moved to Baltimore where a monument would be erected over his grave.
However, since burials were so poorly done, Phillip Mosher was dug up instead of Poe, who was buried on the other side of his grandfather. It was finally realized that the Poe was not buried in Baltimore because the coffins did not match the description of Poe s coffin. When Thomas G. Scarff first discovered the error, he questioned the church committee. Their reply was Does it matter, we did find a skeleton and some said it did look like Poe. We honor the memory of Poe and his works , (Scarlet 373,374). Now all that lies on Poe s headstone in Westminister is the number 8 engraved on his stone.
Since 1949, a mysterious man has visited Poe s memorial in Baltimore. Every year on Poe s birthday, an elderly man clothed in black and sporting a silver-tipped cane, kneels at the grave for a toast of Martel Cognac. He leaves half the bottle and 3 red roses.
Throughout Edgar Allen Poe’s life, many factors have contributed and influenced his writing style. He lived a difficult life, because he was raised in a dysfunctional household. This is not the main factor to his intriguing writing style, but it is a main factor in the understanding of Poe.
He had by a stepfather who did not love him, or he dictated his Victorian values so exhaustively that it warped Allen’s impressionable mind. But the final product of Edgar Allen Poe’s mind is printed in his short stories and poems.
Edgar Allen Poe’s stories all have similar motives and composition that would suggest suppressed emotions from his life experiences are being discharged through his writings. Three main motives that can be related back to his psyche are: the old man/father figure, (John Allen), his obsessions on an object, (symbolism used to easily identify the matter), and his relations to death. (his own personnel depression).
Throughout his life he strove to not be like his stepfather, and to be a better person than his stepfather. In the least, he wanted all memories of him and his ways out of his life. Therefore, he oppressed the memories and when the sub-conscience part of his mind is working on writing, these motives appear.
The father figure usually appears as an old man, or someone with age and decay. Since the old man is close to death, it gives him a different outlook on life. This different outlook usually has perception behind it from all the experience throughout a lifetime. Similarly, in Poe’s writing, the old man figure may retain knowledge but he is far different than the contemporary definition of the old man archetype. Poe relates the old man figure as one that has a certain type of evil that is inside of him.
As in the case of “The Tell Tale Heart” the narrator doesn’t hate the man that he’s going to kill, he hates the fake eye. The eye represents evil, and Poe translates everything to black and white, if a part of the kind man is evil, then the whole man is evil, hence, he kills him . And Poe doesn’t see the act of killing bad, but a cleansing action, ridding the world of one more evil.
In “The Descent into the Maelstrom” the captain was the old man / father figure. Guiding the people in the boat closet to the edge of existence, into the maelstrom. And Poe makes it the captain s fault that they are caught in the outer ring of the maelstrom and are coming closer to the center. But he shows his optimistic side as the vessel escapes the whirlpool, and breaks free. However, I do not believe it was Poe’s intention to credit the captain with the escape, but luck perhaps, or the perseverance of the crew.
In the Black Cat , the husband in the story was particularly cruel and unjust to the cats. The cats were probably representing Poe when he was defenseless and young. And the temper that his stepfather would act out on Poe was the same temper that the “cat-killer” would kill the cat and his wife. It is no doubt that Poe’s traumatic childhood played a key factor exposing the “evil-old man” figure.
Poe was not inebriated when he wrote his work, and therefore has a certain level of consciousness when portraying a character such as the old man figure.
Most of Poe’s stories have a continual motive of obsessive-compulsive behavior. This would be expected of Poe when taking a look at his life. He was kicked out of West Point for gambling, a clearly addictive, form of recreation. He would have this personality trait from an element during his childhood that was missing. This characteristic also present in Poe’s writing. The obsessive attitude the narrator has towards many things. It sounds as neurotic as Nurse Ratchet in “Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.” Weather Poe is trying to sound in this manner is questionable. However, one can speculate that he was a neurotic and tactic. On the inside he is quite active.
For instance, on the “Tell Tale Heart” he was obsessed with ” the beating of the hideous heart!” Or in the “Black Cat”, he was obsessed with the killing the cat. And in both of these stories he was not afraid of the police, but their presence there pushed him over the edge.
In “Crime and Punishment” Raskolnikov thought that he had committed the perfect murder, but it turns out that he deteriorates until he has to confess. The narrator thinks that he has made such an immaculate job in cleaning up the body that nobody will find him, but he never considers the “x-factor.” That is a characteristic of someone that is extremely compulsive; they will act without thinking about the variables in the “equation.”
In the Masque of Red Death , he is obsessed with the “Red Death.” Many of his stories have this attribute, making it more common, hence, less noticeable. Yet, this obsessive/compulsive attitude is part of Poe’s personality, and therefore is expressed through his writing.
The most prominent feature of Edgar Allen Poe’s writing is his obsession with death. He is afraid to die, and yet he does not think highly of his lifetime. While people strive from the lowest places to the highest places, he maintains his place in life as if it were to be equally the same without change. Poe does not do much under his own guidance, as if he was a child throughout his life. He is always looking to authorities. That leads to the fact that he may have a superiority conscience, complex, and therefore feels inadequate throughout life. He does not demonstrate that he loves his life. He writes to survive, and that was his motive for survival.
Poe was always under the control of his stepfather. When he was independent, he did not know what to do. As in the case of children burnouts, they work excessively hard to get into college, and then, when they are independent of their parents supervision, they do not know what to do. Therefore the drink and do drugs to relieve the pressures. Relating this point back to Poe, he needed structure in his life and does not receive adequate structure. Therefore, he does not spend his life meaningfully. The only thing that Poe obsesses about in his stories is about death, and facing death. Even though he wants to evade it, subconsciously that is all he has to wait for.
So, needless to say, every story contains either a direct mention of death or a tacit one, but it is there. “Descent into a Maelstrom” is one of the few stories that a death does not happen and as said earlier, this was one of his more optimistic stories. Even in “The Bells”, Poe talks about all bells, a journey through life, until “the sound of those retched Bells!” haunt him as does his imminent death. There is even a story called, “The Premature Burial,” which shows one the extent of his obsessive behavior towards death.
Poe’s writing does more than entertain the reader. It can be an insight into the dark and somber world of Edgar Allen Poe.
Edgar Allen Poe has been dead 150 years. Despite the time factor, people are still fascinated by his life and his work. He became successful in composing a story in such detail that readers began to read the stories over and over again. With every reading a new and enlightened understating came form the context.
Symbolism and irony became the 2 most recognizable poetic qualities in his stories, although several methods were used within his work. He used these methods to portray his characters to look insane for a brief point, if not throughout the entire story. He utilizes these tools to their limits to maximize on the avenues to manipulate the stories themselves.
In the story The Tell-Tale Heart , Poe expressed a young man turning insane after killing his boss, who he claimed to have an evil eye. After burying him in the floor, the beating of the dead boss s heart causes the character to become insane and admit to the crime he done.
In The Black Cat , Poe used a cat to symbolize a character becoming insane and turning into an unknown killer. In the story, the character removes his cat s eye and hangs him from a tree. This shows how a sick person can become insane.
The ironies of Poe s stories are of a macabre nature. In most of his stories, he has the reader speculating of what is going to happen in the end. This has brought many new ideas of mystery into modern day society. However in Poe s stories, he has the irony set as one of death and insanity. One trait that he definitely expresses that he can relate with.
Furthermore, one cannot understand the meaning of Poe if one reads at the superficial level. One has to read into Poe, and understand the hardships of his life and how he maintained them that way. He knew that death was an inevitable part of life, it is the price of life, but he tried to fight it as if it was an unnatural part of life. He was an extremely intriguing man from all viewpoints, and he was and is, the dark side of all of us.
Moran, John. A Defense of Poe Life, Character and Dying Declarations of the Poet . New York: William D. Bogher, 1885.
Poe, Edgar Allan. The Letters of Edgar Allan Poe . Ed. John Ward Ostrom.
Cambridge, MA: Oxford University Press, 1948.
Scarlett, Charles “A Tale of Ratiocination: The Death and Burial of
Edgar Allan Poe.” Maryland Historical Magazine. (1978), 360-374.
Woodberry, George E. Edgar Allan Poe . New York, New York: AMS Press, Inc., 1968.