Edgar Allan Poe

By: Spencer Thompson

Early Life

Poe was born January 19, 1809 in Boston, Massachusetts. Poe never got to truly know his parents as his father left his family early on, and his mother died when he was 3. Soon after his mother's death, he was taken in by John and Frances Allan. Poe attended the University of Virginia but, because of lack of funding to cover the costs and turning to gambling to try and overcome the cost, he ended up in debt and left in 1826. Upon returning home, Poe found out his fiancee had become engaged to another man while he was away. Even at a young age Poe was a writer, largely preferring to work on his poetry than anything else. The negative experiences of his childhood are largely believed to be influence to the darkness that surrounds much of his poetry.

Poe's First and Only Novel

Edgar Allen Poe wrote only one novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, during his lifetime, along with numerous poems. Pym was written during a time marked by financial and personal difficulties for Poe. It started off when Poe was hired to be a part of the editorial staff of the Southern Literary Messenger in Richmond, Virginia. At this time, Poe had moved his fiancée, Virginia Clemm, and her aunt from Baltimore to live with them and support them financially. After one year of working for the Southern Literary Meesenger, Poe gas promoted to main editor and wrote his first two installments of Pym and published them. These installments were continuously produced monthly. However, after his October and November issues were published late and his December issue never materialized, Poe received notice that he would be fired in January 1837. Following this information, Poe moved Clemm and her aunt out to New York City in hopes of garnering employment as a freelance writer. Due to inflation many magazines stopped publication and he had little opportunity for a job, causing Poe to live in dire poverty for the next year. Poe, being advised to create longer works to broaden his audience, continued working on Pym and finished it by July 1838. The book received a few favorable reviews and enjoyed a brief time of popularity in England, but it was generally dismissed by readers and reviewers. Remember that during this time period, Romanticism was going on. Poe was one of the first to step into a more dark Romanticism, hence why he got such mixed reviews from a lot of his works early on. To be fair, however, this is why his works are such lasting creations, why even if they were produced in another time period, no matter which, they'd still garner much success.

Seeing as Poe, too, was an author during the Romanticism period, his way of writing and common themes are fairly similar to those of Hawthorne and Melville, who were also dark Romantics, with prominent themes of light vs dark, death, and madness as seen in his novel. Poe is very good at creating an image in one's head as seen by this excerpt from The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket:
"But there arose in our pathway a shrouded human figure, very far larger in its proportions than any dweller among men. And the hue of the skin of the figure was of the perfect whiteness of the snow." (Poe 179).

Words have no power to impress the mind without the exquisite horror of their reality

Time Period

If Poe had been in a time period similar to today, he likely would have been perceived as a mental case and possibly institutionalized or at least recommended to go to therapy. The overwhelming childhood trauma in addition to the darkness and death-filled text of his writing would have definitely raised some eyebrows in today's time. His success probably would not be too different than how it was when he was alive. Seeing as the popularity of his works has not changed much over 200 years later, one can assume his writing would still be appreciated. However, during his life, Poe never got to really experience the financial success. This would likely change due to all the new economic principles that exist with royalties and percentages from the selling of his works. If I were Poe, I would probably do the same thing he did, no matter the time period. I feel that dark and mysterious is basically a type of book that will always remain popular because it is a harsh reminder of what reality is really like. Not to mention my favorite genre in literature is murder-mystery. I'd probably try to be somewhere in the range of from Poe to Agatha Christie when it comes to style of writing, success, and plots.

Poe-litical Cartoon

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