Edgar Allan Poe
by Beth Crawford
Poe's Sad Life Story
Edgar Allan Poe Death Theories
Many think that after becoming senselessly drunk, Poe was beaten senseless and robbed by "ruffians"
Another commonly accepted theory is that Poe became a victim of cooping- where gangs kidnap unsuspecting individuals and force them to vote for a specific candidate under multiple disguises. This would account for the fact that Poe was found on election day.
Poe, even though he was an alcoholic, had some condition where he would get drunk much more quickly than others. Some report him to be staggering after one glass of wine. So maybe he drank himself to death.
4. Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Coal gas was used for indoor lighting in the early 19th century, which emitted carbon monoxide.
5. Heavy Metal Poisoning
Levels of mercury were found in Poe's blood after his death. This is most likely due to his exposure to the Cholera epidemic in Philadelphia. His doctor prescribed Mercury Chloride.
Poe's symptoms resembled closely the symptoms of a person with the rabies virus. However, he did not develop hydrophobia, the fear of water, which many people infected with rabies develop.
7. Brain Tumor
Poe was buried in an unmarked grave without a ceremony. Later his body was exhumed so that he could be buried properly. When he was exhumed, they felt a little mass rolling around in his skull. Although believed to be his brain, we now know that the brain is one of the first body parts to decompose after death. However, it could be a brain tumor that calcified.
Maybe a less dramatic theory is that Poe fell victim to the flu which escalated to pneumonia on his deathbed.
Not a widely accepted theory, but it fits Poe's personality and works. This theory claims that Poe was murdered by the three brothers of his fiancee. The three brothers ambushed Poe and warned him from marrying their sister. Poe disguised himself in second hand clothes and hid in Philadelphia for a week before beginning the journey home. However, the brothers intercepted him in Baltimore, beat him up, and forced him to drink whiskey, which they new he could not handle.
Influential People and Motivations
Frances Keeling Valentine Allen- Poe's foster mother who introduced him to English and history. She encouraged Poe's love of writing and English in his youth and attempted to shield him from his foster father's abuse. Mrs. Allen was probably one of the only people that Poe became very attached to. This made her death in 1829 extremely hard for Poe to handle. Her death inspired a new era in Poe's writing. His works began to become increasingly darker starting with The Raven, The Fall of the House of Usher, and Ligeia.
Virginia Poe- Poe's cousin who he married when she was only thirteen. However, their marriage only lasted one year due to her tragic death in 1837 of tuberculosis. Her death led to Poe's excessive drinking which would greatly effect the remainder of his life. She also inspired the poem Annabel Lee. Her death may have also been the impetus for A Tell Tale Heart and The Pit and the Pendulum.
Poe's mother- died when Poe was not yet three years old of tuberculosis. Although Poe was too young to be immediately affected by the death of his mother, he later lamented frequently about how much better his life could have been if he had not ended up in foster care.
Tuberculosis- The disease itself did not inspire Poe, but the havoc and sadness it caused him and his loved one's set Poe down the dark path. Of his few friends and family, tuberculosis killed four of them.
Poverty- One of Poe's impetuses for writing so many short stories and poems were his frequent and extreme impoverished years. At one point, Poe had to burn his own furniture to keep warm in the winter. He wrote more and more stories, hoping that one would be published so that he could continue to survive.
Mr. Poe in Modern America
If I had Edgar Allan Poe's skills to write books and poetry across many genres and varieties, particularly in the horror or gothic genre, I would probably try to bring awareness to some of the terrible atrocities and overlooked issues occurring in developing nations across the globe. In some cases, the terrible events happening in some of these countries appear to have come straight from a horror book. Hopefully the novels that I would write would either scare people into helping/volunteering or at least make people more aware of what is going on in the world.
Context of Pym
The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym was written in Pre-Civil War America (also Antebellum America). Andrew Jackson's presidency had just concluded and Martin Van Buren was inaugurated into office only a year prior to the novel's debut. Tensions between the North and South continued to escalate as the complicated matters of expansion and annexation of new states threatened to upset the balance of Congress and the House.
Timeline of events leading up to Pym:
1830- Indian Removal Act
1831- Turner's Rebellion
1832- Black Hawk War begins
1832- Trail of Tears begins
1833- Force Bill signed by Andrew Jackson
1835- Cherokee Indians walk the Trail of Tears
1837- Van Buren elected
1838- American steamboats begin to cross the Atlantic
1838- The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym.
Many symbols and scenes in Edgar Allan Poe's The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym closely resemble and reflect expansionist and racial ideologies and events occurring in early 19th century America. Although Poe makes no blatant racial slurs or obvious references to slavery, the ideas Poe presents about racial mixing and segregation mirror those of Antebellum America. For example, when Pym and the crew of the Jane Guy land on the island of Tsalal, Pym displays a curiosity for the strange multicolored veins present in the water supply. Two major arteries, a light purple and dark purple, flow in the water. No matter how hard Pym tries, he cannot force the two to even touch, let alone mix. This reflects public's fear and anxiety over cultural and racial mixing. Poe asserts through this symbolism the popular idea (at the time) that races and different peoples naturally separate and want to be separate. In addition, Poe's decision to write a travel narrative, full of adventure and exploration, demonstrates an attempt to indulge his audience's obsession with expansion and exploration. In this time period, for those who could read, travel narratives were immensely popular. This could be attributed to the expansionist policies and idea of Manifest Destiny that provided such a large part of the American Identity in Antebellum America.
Themes in The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym
Black and White
Poe's contrast of these throughout the novel could be attributed to racism or symbolism or both. The hull on the Grampus was dark, the island was dark, the natives were dark, even their teeth were dark. The atrocities that occurred on the dark Island of Tsalal could symbolize hell, or death, but could also be interpreted as racist. The whiteness of the South pole could be referring to purity or introspection or a reference to race.
This motif is recurrent not only in this novel, but several other of Edgar Allan Poe's greatest works. Specifically in The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, the motif on entrapment appears when Pym is trapped in the hull of the Grampus, when Pym, Augustus, Parker, and Peters are trapped at sea, and when Pym and Peters are buried alive on the island of Tsalal. This recurring circumstance create an atmosphere of panic and anxiety throughout the novel.
Death and Rebirth
The theme of death and rebirth establishes itself within the first chapters of the novel. When Pym disobeys his parents and becomes a stowaway on the Grampus it symbolizes the "death" of his old life in Nantucket and the "birth" of his new adventurous life as a seafarer. The theme continues through Pym's character development when he is trapped in the hull of the Grampus and emerges with a different outlook on the whole adventure. The theme takes on a more literal meaning when Parker's death is used to give Pym, Peters, and Augustus life, and also when Pym and Peters are buried alive. The ambiguous ending involving the mysterious white figure could also be interpreted as Pym's rebirth and some sources say his death.