Edgar Allan Poes Life And His Work English Literature Essay
Introduction – Edgar Allan Poe had a very disturbed life, full of joys and grief. His life was short but his works made a great contribution to the development of the literature of American Renaissance.
Childhood with the foster parents. The early death of his mother and the serious illness of Frances Allan had a strong impact on the future writer’s psychological development. It resulted in the image of a sick woman who mysteriously dies and later comes back from the world of dead to the living world.
Youth. In spite of all the generosity of John Allan, Edgar Allan Poe did not consider him to be the real father. The relations that formed between them were rather strained and they influenced the writer’s character. Edgar Allan Poe became selfish, unbalanced and emotionally disturbed. He also depicted characters with such features in his literary works.
The position of an editor in the Messenger magazine provided Edgar Allan Poe with a forum for his future literary works, such as “Berenice” and “Morella”. In spite of the fact, that he soon left the magazine, he entered with its help the literary circles and became a well-known literary critic.
Edgar Allan Poe introduced the genre of detective stories into American literature. That is also connected with his biography, as the future writer enjoyed different puzzles and the game of words from the early childhood.
The works of Edgar Allan Poe were not only highly praised but were also criticized. The reason to this can be traced in the early years of Edgar Poe. He was raised by a person whose character was very difficult. So he became very emotional and eccentric. Thus, not everyone could appreciate the works that were of the same character.
Conclusion – The short life of Edgar Allan Poe is full of mysteries and legends. The facts that are verified from his biography are very scarce. Still, what is known for sure, is that tragic events of his life could not but influenced his literary works.
Almost everyone knows about Edgar Allan Poe’s detective and gothic stories. However, not everyone knows that first of all he was a genius poet whose works continue to stir imagination even nowadays.
His life was not long. He died at the age of 40 (1809 - 1849). He was Yankee in birth and Southerner in behavior. Nevertheless these both facts did not prevent him from being who he really was – Edgar Allan Poe. His relation with family and relatives who dreamed to make a gentlemen and an officer from him, were far from ideal. His relations with public were not very good either, as he did not want to flatter them. He had a rough time with no money. He also knew a lot of grief. Eventually he died very early, having though created wonderful poems and prose that became the classic examples of American romanticism. He forestalled the European romanticism, the ideas of which Edgar Allan Poe implied in his works.
The life of Edgar Allan Poe was rather tragic and the tragic circumstances could not but influenced his writings. Edgar Poe lost his parents when he was very young; he watched his mother dying of tuberculosis. However he was lucky to be adopted by wealthy people who raised him and gave education. John and Frances Allan became his family. Unfortunately Frances Allan was chronically ill, and Edgar Allan Poe had to suffer that hard experience of watching a dear person die once more. That event reflected in his life and in his writings. The image of a beautiful woman dying of a mysterious disease or at some mysterious circumstances can be traced in the major part of Edgar Allan Poe’s stories. Thus, the main characters of “Ligeia” are two beautiful women who mysteriously die. One of them later comes back to the world of living people. The character of another story by Poe “The Fall of the House of Usher” also returns from the world of dead people. The female character was also seriously ill and that became the reason of her death. Of course, that motif of a death of women in the stories may not have been consciously planned by Edgar Allan Poe. On the contrary, having suffered his mother’s death and later having watched the illness and death of the woman who adopted him, the writer could use this motif subconsciously, as it had a great impact on his psychological development.
His relations with John Allan can be hardly characterized as perfect. John Allan was a loving father, a generous man. On the other hand he was also moody, unbalanced, demanding and emotionally turbulent. Allan provided financial help for the future writer and thus Edgar Poe was able to get a very good education in English school and later at the University of Virginia. Nevertheless all Allan’s support, Edgar Poe blamed him in stinginess. However we cannot judge, as there are also evidences that Allan was so strict because of the Poe gambling debts. In general, the tendency to cast his blame on other people followed Poe’s all life. He did not admit his own faults and took this paradigm of behavior in relations with other people very often. Poe suffered from the idea that John Allan was not his true father in spite of all his generosity. Still, the echo of these ideas is present in many Poe’s works, such as the characters of sick mothers and guilty fathers. As the character of John Allan was far from ideal and he was the only one to bring up the future writer, Edgar Allan Poe’s character became passionate, impetuous. People saw many strange things in his behavior. He wrote strange poems no one could understand; he had fantastic and fabulous ideas. John Allan considered Edgar to be just eccentric. However, later the writer realized all his fantastic plans in his writings. He depicted the ship that can grow older with its crew (“Message found in a bottle”). The inclination of the writer to the speculative analysis reflected in his detective stories with famous Dupin, in such stories as “The Murders in the Rue Morgue”, “The Mystery of Marie Roget”, “The Purloined Letter”.
Edgar Allan Poe did not spend much time at the University of Virginia. After two semesters he had to leave. Then for a short period his life was connected with the military and at last he entered the magazine industry. Edgar Allan Poe had a dream to establish his own magazine one day – the Stylus. However this dream was not to come true. Still the magazine industry had some positive effect on the writer’s life. He was taken as an editor of the Southern Literary Messenger in 1835. This position meant a lot for Edgar Poe, as it provided him with a forum for further tales, such as “Morella” and “Berenice”. The Messenger also gave Poe the possibility to establish himself as a literary critic. In the course of time Edgar Poe fell out of favor with Thomas White. However being a very active literary critic, Edgar Allan Poe became a popular speaker.
Since that time his name has already been associated with such macabre stories as “The Tell-Tale Heart”. Edgar Poe assumed a large number of different literary personas during his writing career. The Messenger let Edgar Allan Poe become one of the famous literary critics of his times. He developed his theories in numerous scientific essays, such as “The Philosophy of Composition”, “The Rationale of Verse”, “The Poetic Principle”. In one of these works (“The Philosophy of Composition”) Edgar Allan Poe explained how he created “The Raven”, one of his most famous literary works. This poem appeared in 1845 and made him nationally famous. Having appeared in the Evening Mirror, this poem became a real sensation. Though for its publication Edgar Allan Poe was paid only $9 (Ostrom 35). Besides, in the pages of those magazines Edgar Allan Poe managed to introduce the new form of short stories in tales – the detective stories. This origination of detective stories is closely connected with Poe’s interests and hobbies. He was extremely interested in puzzles, secret codes, and game of words. Getting pleasure from these things in real life, he could not pass them over in his literary works. He really enjoyed to present different puzzles on the pages of the Messenger and to make his readers decode those secret messages. In the times when Edgar Allan Poe created his detective stories, the word “detective” did not exist. However that fact did not prevent those masterpieces of Poe from becoming the basement of the 20th century literature. In fact Edgar Allan Poe is widely known for his macabre and tales of mystery. He is the first American practitioner of the short story. He is considered the inventor of the genre of detective fiction and a great contributor to the genre of science fiction in general (Stableford18-19).
The genre of Gothic literature rose in Britain in the late 18th century. This genre explores the dark sides of human soul and nature. It tells about death, nightmares, ghosts, alienation and haunted landscapes. Edgar Allan Poe brought this type of literature to America. Most of his famous works are Gothic. Edgar Allan Poe followed this genre to appease the public taste (Royot 57).
There are some suggestions that Edgar Allan Poe share identities with his characters. Many depictions of his personages blend in with characters of his stories (Gargano 165). To some extent this is true. Edgar Poe tried to overcome the lack of will of his characters. Through them he tried to get rid of this feature in his own character. He gave them the power of thought and thus glorifies the will.
Edgar Allan Poe was not only highly praised but criticized as well. That does not only concern his literary works, but his behavior as well, as he was egocentric and selfish. These negative features of his character alongside with many other originate in his childhood spent with John Allan, whose character was also very unstable. Thus, William Butler Yeats once called Poe “vulgar”; Ralph Waldo Emerson said about Poe’s best novel “The Raven”: “I see nothing in it” and called Edgar Poe “the jingle man” (Emerson’s Estimate of Poe). Aldous Huxley compared “too poetical” works of Poe with wearing diamond tings on every finger (Huxley 32).
Still what do we really know about Edgar Allan Poe’s life? How did he live? What bothered him and what was his life in reality? There are more questions than answers. Very small number of facts is verified. There are more legends, myths and conjectures in his biography than certainties. Everything that is written about him is more our fantasies than real truth. He got only nine dollars for his best poem “The Raven”, however all the reading society of America appreciated it at once, still not knowing the name of the author. Edgar Allan Poe was not happy to become famous in his life. But coming after death, his fame not only lives today, but continues to grow and takes new forms. According to what poets usually say, they dream about fame after death. That is their utmost desire of men of art. If it is true, for Edgar Allan Poe this dream has come true. The symbolists of the beginning of the 20th century considered him to be their forerunner; his influence can be traced in the works of almost all modern American poets. His works are translated on almost all world languages; still none of the translations can convey the melody of Poe’s language. The stories by Edgar Allan Poe mark him as an originator of both detective and horror fiction. Many anthologists name him “the architect” of the contemporary short story. Besides, he was one of the first literary critics to focus on the importance of style and structure of the literary work. He was also called the forerunner to the “art for art’s sake” movement (Edgar Allan Poe).
And, after all, nevertheless there were times in his life when he had nothing to eat, he had a lovely young wife and beautiful little daughter, and that is much more valuable than material wealth. Only one glance to the poems dedicated to Poe’s wife let us know that Edgar Allan Poe would never change his happiness with beloved wife for earthly blessings. It is she who is referred those wonderful bold and happy words of “Annabel Lee” that deny Death for the sake of Love:
For the moon never beams without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise but I feel the bright eyes
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling- my darling- my life and my bride,
In the sepulchre there by the sea,
In her tomb by the sounding sea. (Edgar Allan Poe)
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