How Edgar Allan Poe’s Books Relate to His Life
Literature is believed to be a wonderful world where phantasy of the writer is mixed with the experience of his life,
It is important to admit that the relation of Poe’s books to his life was earlier outlined by Walt Whitman in his essay “Edgar Poe’s Significance”:
Poe’s verses illustrate an intense faculty for technical and abstract beauty, with the rhyming art to excess, an incorrigible propensity toward nocturnal themes, a demoniac undertone behind every page. … There is an indescribable magnetism about the poet’s life and reminiscences, as well as the poems (p. 255).
The life of Edgar Allan Poe is characterized by a personal and professional turmoil. American publishers refused to print works of a young poet as the copyright law of those times made reprinting British books more profitable business. However, his soldier spirit was strong enough not to give up.
It is worth mentioning that Poe’s military service also had a great impact on his literature works. His first book of poems “Tamerlane, and Other Poems” revealed years devoted in
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The overwhelming majority of Poe’s writings are recognized as dark and measured in spite of the balanced death and beauty in their plots. People are involved in dramatic events shaped by
Indeed, his literature works are psychologically thrilling. His every poem, tale or short story reveals the depth of human psyche and behavior. The magnetism about the poet’s life was, however, a result of his psychological disease that has developed at the early age. Before Poe was three years old, his parents died.
This tragedy has determined the features of his further literature writing full of dark passionate sensibilities. The author has a specific neurotic obsession with violence and death. Moreover, he approves tragic mysteries of life as the only possible and acceptable life scenarios.
These ideas are clearly traced in his short novel “The Cask of Amontillado”. The readers see the act of vengeance which ends in murder, the
The accurate details of Fortunato’s agony before death, desperate attempts to ask for mercy, his wild anger and almost animal crying reveal how the author appreciates human sufferings and approves the act of terrible vengeance. Vengeance is a central theme in other Poe’s stories, “Vendetta” and “The Black Cat” where his heroes are obsessed with the idea to kill their enemies. Vengeance becomes a sense of their life, their only purpose.
It is assumed that author’s passionate sensibility to vengeance takes its origin from his life experienced when he lost his beloved women: his mother, Jane Stanard, his childhood friend and Virginia Clem, his cousin who became his wife at the age of 13. He was seeking for vengeance to the life itself as it took the sense of his existence. He was maniacally afraid of tuberculosis as this disease took lives of his mother and his wife. He felt envy to happy people around him and expresses his maniac feelings in his depressive short stories.
It is important to admit that the loss of his beloved women greatly influenced his poetry. Many of his poems are centered on a beautiful woman who embodies features of all three beloved women from author’s life. “Annabel Lee” reveals his mad obsessive love to his wife Virginia Clem. Today’s morality would not accept this marriage as they were cousins and; he was
Still, the tragedy of his mother is recognized the most in such poems as “Ulalume,” “The Raven,” where she called Lenore and even “To Helen”. At the mean
And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting,
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming,
And the lamplight o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor Shall be lifted - nevermore! (tau.ac.il, 2014).
The theme of loss is disclosed in Poe’s short stories. His famous “The Masque of the Red Death” reveals a country that is suddenly attacked by a deadly plague. The Read Death quickly spreads over the country and kills the nation in the shortest time. The interesting fact of the narration is that the symptoms of the horrible disease are similar to tuberculosis symptoms: dizziness, sharp pain and seeping blood. The disease has a symbolic meaning in this story: like
Poe’s poems and stories differ from writings of any other writer not because of his life experience, but also because of his personal opinion on nature and purpose of writing. He did not recognize poetry as a superior genre over other genres.
The obsession of woman’s death is Poe’s psychological problem and the central theme of his short stories. His life experience has shaped a particular perception of reality, i.e. all young beautiful women have to die even if they are loved and cherished before. “The Black Cat” is a bright example of such belief because a young woman from the story unexpectedly dies as her loving husband turn against her when she tries to protect a cat.
Probably, his sufferings because of Virginia’s death were the most painful as several his works are combined by a common theme of innocent young women dying in horrible ways. For instance, “The Fall of the House of Usher,” “Annabel Lee,” “The Oval Portrait,” reveal how beautiful full of life women die under different circumstances. Like the characters of these works, Poe’s young wife was also as beautiful and died in an unusual and unexpected way.
It is worth mentioning that death of three women in Poe’s life greatly influenced his mental health. The consequences of a huge stress revealed soon after Virginia’s death. He suffered from depressions and turned to alcohol.
However, drinking has considerably worsened his health as being drunk he became insane. Alcoholism has impacted his literature work as since then alcoholic characters appeared in his stories. The features of a heavy alcoholism are disclosed in “The Black Cat” written in 1844:
“One night, returning home, much intoxicated, from one of my haunts about town, I fancied that the cat avoided my presence. I seized him... The fury of a demon instantly possessed me. I knew myself no longer... I took from my waistcoat-pocket a pen-knife, opened it, grasped the poor beast by the throat, and deliberately cut one of its eyes from the socket!” (Giordano, 2014).
Till this time Edgar Allan Poe was totally overcome by the demon of alcohol. Later
Another episode of alcoholism is depicted in “The Cask of Amontillado” mentioned above. Fortunato is obsessed by the opportunity to get drunk. His alcohol intoxication allows Montresor to take him to catacombs and trap him alive. One can assume that Fortunato embodies Edgar Allan Poe whose life was limited by chains of tuberculosis and finally destroyed by alcohol.
It is obvious that till that time his personality has been totally destroyed by alcohol, drugs and mental diseases. Even his two attempts to get married failed. His first fiancée refused to be his wife after she witnessed his mental problems. The second marriage failed as Poe got heavily drunk and was taken to a hospital being totally insane.
The personal tragedy of being alcoholic Edgar Allan Poe depicted in details not occasionally. Alcoholism destroyed his mental health, spoiled two attempts to get married and build
“The Black Cat” themes also included a theme of illogical and irrational behavior and its consequences on human life. Poe revealed what type of thinking can alter human points of view and attitude to other people. Making parallels between Poe’s biography facts and the characters of his stories, one can see that writer is a person who does not divide fantasy from reality. Any his poem or a story is a reflection of one’s thoughts and experience. Writing is Poe’s soul, a mirror that reflected his tragic life.
It is important to admit that the master of horror stories, Edgar Allan Poe also had satirical writings characterized by a balanced understanding of his readers and perception of reality. For instance, “The Balloon Hoax” was written as a newspaper article in order to attract attention to a new hot air balloon technology. Later on, the story was recognized as science-fiction writing.
To crown it all, Edgar Allan Poe had a dramatic and tragic life. Every episode of his life and mental condition has been reflected in his poems and short stories. Tragic love to women,
- Giordano, R. (2014). The Black Cat by Edgar Allan Poe - Poestories.com.
Poestories. Retrieved 13 November 2014, from http://poestories.com/read/blackcat
- Master E.L. (1968). Whitman. New York: Biblo & Tannen Publishers.
- Poe, E. A. (1965) Tales of grotesque and arabesque. Gloucester, Mass.: P.Smith
- Poe, E.A. (2014) The raven. Retrieved 13 November 2014, from http://www.tau.ac.il/~itzhakevenor/Poe-The-Raven.pdf
- Poetryfoundation.org. (2014). Annabel Lee by Edgar Allan Poe: The Poetry Foundation. Retrieved 13 November 2014, from