Edgar Allan Poe

An Analysis by Patrick Gadallah

Biographical Sketch

Early Life

Edgar Allan Poe was born on January 19, 1809 in Boston, Massachusetts to two actors, Elizabeth and David Poe. Poe was the second born of three children. His brother, William would grow to become a poet, and his sister, Rosalie, would end up teaching penmanship at a girls' school. Poe's mother died when Poe was only 3 and his father had left the family a year before. Poe grew distant from his siblings and came to live with a Scottish tobacco merchant, John Allan, and his wife, Frances in Richmond, Virginia. Though they never formally adopted him, John Allan and his Wife served as a foster family for Poe and gave him the middle name "Allan". The family traveled to Britain in 1815. Poe studied in a grammar school in Scotland and then in a boarding school in London until 1817 when he was enrolled in Reverend John Bransby's Manor House School. Poe and the Allans moved back to Richmond in 1820. By this age, Poe had already compiled enough poems to create a book but Allan was advised against it by Poe's headmaster. In 1825, John Allan inherited a property with an estimated worth of $750,000, but despite Allan's wealth,he and Poe often quarreled over finances. While Frances Allan seemed to develop a good connection with Poe, John never seemed to be able to connect with the boy. Poe became engaged to his neighbor and friend Sarah Royster before enrolling and being accepted into the University of Virginia. Allan provided Poe with enough money to cover only a small portion of Poe's expenses, so Poe turned to gambling in order generate the money required to maintain his enrollment, but instead, Poe unfortunately ended up in massive debt which despite Allan's attempted assistance Poe could not recover from. Poe returned returned to Richmond only a year after his enrollment angry and disappointed only to be dismayed by his fiancée's engagement to another man. Poe, heartbroken and disgruntled with Allan, left the Allan manor in pursuit of his long dreamed goal of being a successful writer.

Life and Writing career

Shortly after leaving the Allan Manor, Only at age 18, Poe published his first book Tamerlane and Other Poems. The same year, in need of financial support, Poe decided to enroll in the United States army as 22 year-old "Edgar A. Perry". Two years into his military career, Poe got news that Frances Allan had been severely ill and had requested to see him. Appealing to his commanding officer with his real name and situation, Poe sought to be discharged from military service. When Poe arrived in Richmond, Frances had already been buried. Poe and John Allan reconciled and Allan helped Poe to acquire a spot in West Point in 1830. Before attending the academy, Poe published another book Al Aaraaf, Tamberlane, and Minor Poems in 1829. While at West Point, Poe heard that Allan had remarried and he wrote to Allan to explain his outrage at Allan's actions. Shortly thereafter, Poe was kicked out of West Point due to his poor handling of his duties. It is thought that Poe had this done on purpose to spite Allan and to sever all ties with him. Poor and isolated, Poe traveled in search for a stable job. From 1831-1835, Poe found himself in the home of his Aunt, Maria Clemm. Maria's daughter and Poe's cousin, Virginia, became a source of literary inspiration for Poe as well as a romantic interest. Poe and Virginia married in 1836 when she was only 14. While working for the magazine, the Southern Literary Messenger Poe earned himself a reputation as a harsh critic. He also published some of his original work in the magazine including parts of his only novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, but Poe's aggressive critic-style and disagreeable personality ended his career with the magazine. In the latter part of the 1830's, Poe released Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque as well as completed The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket which both became successful and earned Poe great fame. Poe created a new genre in 1841, detective fiction with his short story "The Murders in the Rue Morgue". In 1842, Poe's wife contracted tuberculosis which had already claimed the lives of his mother, brother and foster mother. In 1843, Poe earned a literary prize for his short story "The Gold Bug". In 1845, Poe became a sensation with the publication of "The Raven". In 1847, Virginia, Poe's wife, died at age 24. Poe was devastated and spent his final years roaming throughout cities giving lectures and attempting to earn backing for a Magazine project.

Death and Legacy

On September 27, 1849, Poe left Richmond on his way to Philadelphia. On October 3rd, He was found passed out in a bar in Baltimore and he was Taken to a hospital to be treated. Poe died on October 7, 1849; his final words are said to have been "Lord, help my poor soul". The cause of Poe's death was claimed to be "Congestion of the Brain" which at the time was a term doctors used when the cause of death was unknown.


Strangely, Poe never achieved financial success in his lifetime, but Poe left an enduring, unique, and striking Artistic Style which shocked readers in his lifetime and continue to do so into the modern day. Poe's success story and legacy cannot be quantified with currency, instead it is the Raven shaped, eerie, dark mark which he left on his readers, a mark that is not easily forgotten.

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Defining Quote

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"The ninety and nine are with dreams, content but the hope of the world made new, is the hundredth man who is grimly bent on making those dreams come true."

This quote perfectly reflects Poe as a person. Poe from an early age made it his goal to become a successful writer. Despite his foster father's attempts to include Poe in his tobacco business and using finances to aid this goal, Poe remained "grimly bent" on achieving his dreams, so much so that he was willing to sever ties with his primary source of monetary assistance. His dedication to making his dreams come true became the primary driving force in his life. Poe was the hundredth man.

A different Poe-int in time

21st Century Poe

The key to Poe's fame in 19th century was Poe's unique style of writing and the eerie and compelling subject matter of death. Poe was an exceptional writer and an incisive critic and those qualities played integral and significant roles in his success. Poe would probably have been as successful if not more successful in the modern day. Poe's eloquent writing style is still as exceptional and as unique now as it was more than ever. Poe's writing is still as compelling today was it had been in Poe's time. Poe's "The Raven" is widely studied in many public schools through out the United States, and his themes of death and mystery are even now more popular than they have been in Poe's time. Perhaps the modern world would have been a more fitting reader base than the 18th century one for Poe's work. Furthermore, the internet and social media would have facilitated Poe's popularity as it does now with some of the world's rising authors. Movie theaters today receive constant streams of horror films and thrillers which are genres Poe had mastered and perfected. Poe was the father of the mystery genre and a pioneer in the Science Fiction genre. Poe's distinctive way of writing was an inevitable gateway to fame in his time as it would have been in the 21st century.

Edgar Allan Pat?

Given Poe's talent, creativity, and ingenuity, the logical use of these skills would be to create new literary works. I would use Poe's affinity for mystery and thrill as well as his ability to imagine different places an times to create a novel that combines aspects of a thriller work with aspects of a science fiction work to create a remarkable albeit peculiar genre of writing. I would also inevitably make attempts at creating poetry which is something I have always wanted to attempt, but lacked the skill and talent to try. I would dedicate my life as Poe had to writing and attempting to revolutionize or to create a new path of writing for future writers to follow. To possess Poe's talents and attempt anything otherwise would simply be selfish and an utter waste of a skill that is not only worthy of praise but also worthy of being a guiding beacon for future generations of writers and authors and any other form of artist who can be inspired by such talent.

Conclusions on Poe and his time period

Poe and the 19th century

Poe grew up in the early 19th century which is historically known in the United States for The Era of Good Feelings and the attempts at advancement in society through the 19th century reforms following the second great awakening. Poe grew up in a stabilizing nation that was aiming for improvement. This was a time period in which every American was called upon to look to themselves and consider the actions they could take to improve themselves. All calls for advancement from the formation of Utopian society to the temperance movement must have been a constant reminder for Poe to seek that he himself achieve perfection. This is evident in Poe's dedication to his goal of becoming a successful writer. Poe knew that writing and poetry where his calling and to achieve greatness in theses things would be to achieve greatness in himself. The early 19th century made Poe who he is in the same way that the early 20th century, another time of search for improvement in the United States, gave rise to historical figures such as Amelia Earhart and Babe Ruth. It can then be concluded that the time period in which Poe grew up was directly connected to person Poe became.

A Poe-litical Cartoon

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An Explaination

The political cartoon explores the Romantic movement. The torch which represents romanticism is the source of light which is a common symbol for knowledge and also casts a shadow from Hawthorne who is a noted romantic author. The shadow morphs into the image of Poe which represents dark romanticism for which Poe was a leading figure.
In this biography the author prefaces the recounting of details of Poe's life by first explaining his intention to eliminate fictional or disreputable sources which cloud Poe with mystery or defame. In doing so, the author establish the intention and purpose of the biography. The author continues by explaining Poe's childhood including his brother William and sister Rosalie as well as the abandonment of the family by Poe's father and the death of his mother and the eventual informal adoption of Poe by John and Frances Allan who gave him his middle name. The author continues by reciting Poe's educational background followed by his enrollment into Virginia University and his eventual dismissal due to financial conflict with his foster father. By doing so the author clarifies completely Poe's education and his relationship with his family which connects to his intention for writing the biography. In order to explain Poe's career beginnings as a writer, the author then notes Poe's military career and the publication of his first works*.Providing Critical insights to Poe's personal life, the author proceeds to establish in the reader a firm understanding of Poe's romantic interest and eventual marriage to his cousin Virginia**. The author ends the biographical sketch by explaining Poe's eventual rise to fame through his works including "The Fall of the House of Usher" and "The Raven", his wife's eventual death due to tuberculosis, his depression and alcoholism and finally his eventual death. The author concludes the piece by informing the reader of Poe's literary nemesis, Rufus Griswald, who, following Poe's death, wrote a biography of Poe which was intended to defame Poe and his work ,but as the author explains, was entirely unsuccessful and while Poe remains famous today, Griswald's name is seldom heard.

*Periodic Sentence

**Sentence containing participial phrase

The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket

Context

Poe began work on this novel which would become his only novel while working as a critic and write for the Southern Literary Messenger. Poe completed the work while he was unemployed following his dismissal from several magazines. Around the time when the book was created, Andrew Jackson initiated the trail of tears in which the Cherokee nation was forcibly relocated. In the UK and some parts of the US feminism began to talk hold and many Women began calling for suffrage for women. Nathaniel Hawthorne also published a book in the same year as Poe's: Twice-Told Tales. The times around the creation of this book were some of the peak years for the Romantic movement.

Themes

In this book too Poe doesn't shy from including his signature themes like death, destruction and savagery.

One of the themes Poe explores in The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket is the psychological damage caused by death. Pym seeking an adventure with his friend is subjected to several accounts of death from murder to starvation. Pym's personality undergoes a significant change as a result. He goes from being a socially upright and kind of proud youth to a deteriorating boy who's only purpose became to survive.

A theme that also relates to this is becoming savage for survival which Poe introduces in the book too. Poe through Pym as well as the Natives Pym encounters on the voyage shows. Pym is forced to go from being civil to being savage for survival. Poe shows this by showing that every savage thing Pym does saves his life. Pym murders to save his life and even on one instance resorts to cannibalism to avoid starvation. The villagers describe in the book too show survival through savagery. They brutally murder the ship crew with which Pym travels in order to ensure their own survival.

A reflection on the Time period

The book is a reflection of the time period in which it is written because it displays aspects of the Romantic movement which was at its peak during the time period in which the book was written. The five I's of romanticism imagination, intuition, idealism, inspiration and individuality are all present in The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket. Poe highlights the intense emotions in the character through vivid descriptions as well as expresses a strong admiration of nature especially its destructive forces such as storms in Pym's travels.

Modern Day perception

This novel can be as appreciated now as it was in Poe's time. Poe's grasping and eloquent use of language makes the book an interesting and exhilarating book for anyone who appreciates good writing. Poe creates characters and experiences that pull the reader into the book and almost makes the reader experience what the character experience which essentially allows the reader to undergo the horror of the plot which constantly shifts from hope to utter hopelessness . Poe's writing is timeless, it seems that it has retained its popularity from Poe's time period to now and is likely to continue to remain popular and appreciated for decades if not centuries to come and this novel is no exception. It is as compelling and appealing as any of Poe's renowned short stories and can be enjoyed in a similar fashion.

Style and Stylistic Device

Poe's writing style is one littered with vivid descriptions and is prominently filled thematic diction which is Poe's most effective and iconic stylistic device in this novel.
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Poe in the Light of Other Writers

Poe's writing style is entirely different from other authors I have read. Poe's writing style is completely different from Millers. Poe's style focuses entirely on emotions and the psychology of his characters and his works primarily dealt with death and mystery. His writing innovative and he is generally considered one of the leading figures in the Dark Romanticism movement. Poe's writing can then be compared to Hawthorne's in that both focused on the emotions with a distinct difference in the subjects and themes that each pursued. Poe's writing however is of a style which cannot be easily compared to any other romantic writer despite the similarity in the type of writing.

Bibliography

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