Edgar Allen Poe

This essay has a total of 1919 words and 8 pages.

Edgar Allen Poe

The darkness that seems to surround Poe's life began as an infant. Poe was born January
19, 1809 in Boston, Massachusetts. He was the second son of David and Eliza Poe, but soon
after he was born, David abandoned the family. Then two years after that occurrence, Eliza
died from tuberculosis. After her death, Edgar, his little sister, Rosalie, and his
brother, William, were separated. While William was sent to live with his grandparents,
and Rosalie was sent to a family in Richmond, Virginia, Poe moved to live with John and
Fannie Allan (Alexander 15). John Allan was a well-known businessman, and Poe was no
longer surrounded by poverty. John made sure that Poe was given a good education, and when
living in England with the Allans, he went to private academies. He then moved back to the
states, where Poe enrolled at the University of Virginia in 1826. When he was there, he
spent much of his money, and soon found himself in debt. He asked Mr. Allan to pay for it,
but he refused, because he assumed that the debt was due to Poe's constant gambling and
consumption of alcohol (Alexander 38). After returning to Mr. Allan when his wife died,
John assisted Poe in entering West Point. It can be assumed that the greatest contributor
to Poe's disturbance was his addiction to alcohol. His foster family's status made this
problem a shameful vise, and a source of conflict.

Poe used drinking as an escape of sorts, and his life was greatly affected by the
substance. It disrupted his writing, his first engagement, and his relationship with his
foster family. After he left home, he tried to make a life for himself in Boston. He was
reunited with his brother, but at the young age of 24 he died, which upset Poe very much.
His writing became more insistent after being rejected constantly by newspapers. Soon
afterwards, in his mid-twenties, Poe began to think of marriage. He found himself strongly
attracted to his 13 year old cousin, Virginia Clemm, and married her. His poem To My
Mother was really written to his aunt and mother-in-law, Mrs. Maria Clemm. He was known to
be a loving husband to his cousin of 13 (Fisher 23). In 1837, he moved to New York, where
he competed with some of the best contemporary writers of that time. Just when his life
and writing seemed to be becoming consistent and somewhat stable, his wife died of
tuberculosis, and this highly disrupted Poe. His writing instantly became dark and dreary,
but he used this tragedy of losing his wife as inspiration to write about death, love, and
reunion. His audience continued to grow, and people began to notice it. But it was not
until after his death on October 7, 1849 that his writing was given the recognition that
it deserved (Ehrlich 14).

Edgar Allen Poe's contributions to American literature have become increasingly more
prominent as the years have passed since is death. As short fiction has become a more
accepted genre in literary circles, Poe's theories are studied with more passion. Although
he lived a rather melancholy life, Poe did experience moments of joy, and desired to
capture beauty through poetic form. Indeed, what he left behind for the literary world was
his works of genius, revealed through his poetry, fiction, and criticism.

Some people think that some of Poe's criticism has endured more than his short fiction and
poetry. Carlson writes, "There have been strongly divergent evaluations of Poe's literary
significance, from Emerson's dismissal of him as the ‘the jingle man' and Lowell's
‘three-fifths genus and two fifths, sheer fudge' to Yeat's declaration, ‘always and
for all the lands a great lyric poet" (21). The criticism of his poetry and writing was a
direct criticism on his theories, seeing as how he implemented his theories in all of his
writing. For example, Poe believed that length was extremely important. Poe once wrote
that, "If any literary work is too long to read at one sitting, we must be content to
dispense with the immensely important effect derivable from unity of impression- for, if
two sittings is required, the affairs of the world interfere, and like everything like
totality is at once destroyed" (Meyers 129). Thus, length was the very key to enjoyment of
a poem or a short story. Unity was also very important in Poe's writing. As Jeffrey Meyers
explains, "The single unifying factor in all of Poe's works is the concept of unity
itself"(11). He was very concerned with the relationship of words and their effect on the
reader. Poe drove himself to create a dream world, one self-contained within writing
itself, without the help of external forces. He did this because he did not want his
writing to be dependant on any outside variable.

Now that short fiction and poetry have become an accepted genre, Poe's theories have
become even more important. When creating, Poe believed, that one should use an inverse
approach to writing. He thought that the writer should have one "single effect", which
motivated the entire piece of literature. He thought that the best approach to this would
be by coming up with an ending first, and then go about finding the means in which to
achieve it. He once stated that, "A skillful literary artist has constructed a tale. If
wise, he has not fashioned his thoughts to accommodate his incidents: but having
conceived, with deliberate care, a certain unique or single effect to be wrought out, he
then inverts such incidents- he then combines such events as may best aid him in
establishing this preconceived effect" (May 124).

Poe's poetry uses a theme that appears to deal primarily with his fear of loss, not of
himself, but of loved ones. In many of the verses, he refuses to deny the finality of
death, because he sees a perpetuation of life in the remembrance of those departed. In
effect, death simply becomes a barrier that only temporarily separates the grieving
survivor from the more fortunate departed. In his poem "Spirits of the Dead", Poe appears
to bemoan the idea that in life only the most delicate bond holds the soul to earthly
existence and that the nature of that existence is one of isolation (Fisher 42). Another
example expressed in one of his sonnets, Silence, Poe expresses his feelings of isolation
by saying that "one dwells in lonely places", while welcoming death or eternity.
Therefore, the greatest intimacy possible, while living, is the physical intimacy from
love of the heart. In death, the barrier is overcome and the soul is freed from this
earthly isolation. Then, and only then can the supreme intimacy be fulfilled with the
loved one, soul to soul, for eternity. As Poe clearly spelled out in his poem "Annabel
Lee"... "And neither the angels in Heaven above Nor the demons down under the sea, Can
ever dissever my soul from the soul Of the beautiful Annabel Lee" This theme carries
through to some of his other poems as well. Although the poem Dream Within a Dream has
many different interpretations, it can be said to fit this idea (Carlson 73). The first
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