Edgar Allan Poe and Imagery

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10th Jul 2017 English Literature Reference this

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“Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary, over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore, while I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping, as of someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door. “‘Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door – only this, and nothing more.” (Poe, The Raven, 1845) It is with this stanza that Edgar Allan Poe opens his epic poem “The Raven”; and it is with this descriptive opening that the reader is thrown into a world unbeknown to anything imaginable, the world of Edgar Allan Poe the master of horror and imagery.

Edgar Allen Poe was born January, 19th, 1809 in Boston, Massachusetts to Parents David Poe Jr. and Elizabeth Arnold Hopkins Poe. Edgar had a younger sister Rosalie Poe and an older brother William Henry Leonard Poe. When Edgar Poe was only 1 year old his father David Poe Jr. left Elizabeth to struggle to care for Edgar and his siblings. It was in the time following the departure of his father that Edgar’s mother Elizabeth came down will tuberculosis. Being poor Elizabeth had no choice but to cling to life at a boarding house, all the while young Edgar watched helplessly as his mother slowly sank into delirium until finally passing. Following the death of his mother Elizabeth Arnold Hopkins Poe, Edgar and his siblings were scattered to three different foster homes throughout Richmond, Virginia. Edgar was eventfully cared for by John Allan, a wealthy tobacco merchant, who cared for Edgar as if he was his own child and welcomed Edgar into his family with open arms. (Biography: Edgar Allen Poe, 1994) (Who Is Edgar Allan Poe?)

It was during his younger years that Mrs. Allen would shower Edgar with affection, and at for Edgar things were good, but much like Edgar’s early life things would not remain, much like Elizabeth Poe, Edgar’s foster mother stricken with tuberculosis. During this time a rift between Edgar and Mr. Allen grew. It was following this time that Mr. Allen sent Edgar to attend the University of Virginia. It was during this time that Edgar Allan Poe developed great gambling debt. During that time debtors prison did exist. Fearing being sent to prison, Edgar joined the United States army in 1827 under an assumed name Edgar a Perry. After two year in the army Edgar Allan Poe was discharged in1829 following the death of his foster mother Frances Allan on February 28, 1829 The Death of Frances Allan affected Edgar vastly and much like the death of his mother Edgar would carry her death throughout life often revering itself in Poe’s writings. (Biography: Edgar Allen Poe, 1994) (Who Is Edgar Allan Poe?)

After the death of Frances Allan, Poe moved to Baltimore where he would eventually marry his first cousin, 13 year old Virginia Clemm. Their marriage was a happy one. That was until 1942 when his wife Virginia devolved tuberculosis. The next five years were as Edgar was already accustomed to a living hell. Edgar would care for Virginia, up until her death in 1847. During the time after his wife Virginia’s death Edgar Allan Poe would go through great torment. He would drink to inebriation often and go through periods of insanity. It wasn’t until 1849 that Edgar Allan Poe would finally be relieved of the demons he found in his life. On October 7th 1949 Edgar Allan Poe died of unknown causes at the age of 40. (Biography: Edgar Allen Poe, 1994) (Who Is Edgar Allan Poe?)

Edgar Allan Poe was a fantastic writer who would use various styles and elements to create every detail present in his work. Edgar Allan Poe would often take events that occurred in his life and transcribe them into his work. Such pieces of work as the red death and even the raven depict chilling demons found in the life of Edgar Allan Poe. (Biography: Edgar Allen Poe, 1994) (Who Is Edgar Allan Poe?)

One technique that he often used to portray a since of imagery is the unity of effect. The unity of effect is simply the total sum of every detail in the story combined to reach the ending. Edgar Allan Poe would use his characters, the setting, the mood, and various other aspects to draw the reader into his story, and it was this unity of effect that world ultimately lead the reader to feel a part of the story and upon conclusion make the reader feel the general mood that Edgar Allan Poe wanted for his ending. (Poe, The Philosophy of Composition)

The unity of effect can be found in most of Edgar Allan Poe’s writing but none predominately as in The Fall of the House of Usher. To draw the reader into a dark world where vampires exist, and where the effects of Roderick usher burying his sister Madeline Usher drive Roderick into a state never seen before, one of sorrow, mystery, and terror, Edgar Allan Poe used both imagery and the unity of effect. (Poe, The Philosophy of Composition)

Edgar Allan Poe opens his short story The Fall of the House of Usher using the unity of effect; He does this by providing the reader with a chilling depiction of the setting outside the house of usher. “A dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens, I had been passing alone, on horseback, through a singularly dreary tract of country” (Poe, The Fall Of The House Of Usher, p. 738). This opening sets the tone for the entire story as you jump into the role of the Narrator a boyhood friend of Roderick ride horseback thought a dark and gloomy country side to help Roderick in his time of need.

Edgar Allan Poe further uses the unity of effect in his description of the house of usher.

` “With the first glimpse of the building, a sense of insufferable gloom pervaded my spirit. I say insufferable; for the feeling was unrelieved by any of that half-pleasurable, because poetic, sentiment, with which the mind usually receives even the sternest natural images of the desolate or terrible. I looked upon the scene before me – upon the mere house, and the simple landscape features of the domain – upon the bleak walls – upon the vacant eye-like windows – upon a few rank sedges – and upon a few white trunks of decayed trees – with an utter depression of soul which I can compare to no earthly sensation more properly than to the after-dream of the reveler upon opium – the bitter lapse into everyday life – the hideous dropping off of the veil. There was iciness, a sinking, a sickening of the heart – an unredeemed dreariness of thought which no goading of the imagination could torture into aught of the sublime.” (Poe, The Fall Of The House Of Usher, p. 738)

This description of the house of usher creates a feeling of horror which casts down the readers spine and lies in the pit of one’s stomach, for as a reader I can now say that nothing good rests in the house of usher.

Edgar Allan Poe also uses the unity of effect in his description of the characters.

“I gazed upon him with a feeling half of pity, half of awe. Surely, man had never before so terribly altered, in so brief a period, as had Roderick Usher! It was with difficulty that I could bring myself to admit the identity of the wan being before me with the companion of my early boyhood. Yet the character of his face had been at all times remarkable. A cadaverousness of complexion ; an eye large, liquid, and luminous beyond comparison ; lips somewhat thin and very pallid, but of a surpassingly beautiful curve ; a nose of a delicate Hebrew model, but with a breadth of nostril unusual in similar formations ; a finely moulded chin, speaking, in its want of prominence, of a want of moral energy; hair of a more than web-like softness and tenuity ; these features, with an inordinate expansion above the regions of the temple, made up altogether a countenance not easily to be forgotten. And now in the mere exaggeration of the prevailing character of these features, and of the expression they were wont to convey, lay so much of change that I doubted to whom I spoke.” (Poe, The Fall Of The House Of Usher, pp. 740-741)

Edgar Allan Poe’s description of Roderick usher helps the reader understand and feel what horrors Roderick has seen and what awaits the reader in his stay at the house of usher.

Edgar Allan Poe uses the unity of effect in other manners such as the reading of the “Mad Trist” where you (The narrator) and Roderick read the story only to hear the noise emanating from outside your chamber door. It is in this part of the story that the end of draws near, but not only that of the story but possibly of you.

It is in the end where Edgar Allan Poe completes his unity of effect and succeeds in collaboration every aspect of the story into one feeling at the end, that of terror. “There did stand the lofty and enshrouded figure of the lady Madeline of Usher. “There was blood upon her white robes, and the evidence of some bitter struggle upon every portion of her emaciated frame. For a moment she remained trembling and reeling to and fro upon the threshold – then, with a low moaning cry, fell heavily inward upon the person of her brother, and in her violent and now final death-agonies, bore him to the floor a corpse, and a victim to the terrors he had anticipated” (Poe, The Fall Of The House Of Usher, p. 750)

Edgar Allan Poe’s short story The Fall of the House of Usher uses the unity of effect in great lengths to help the reader dive into the role of the narrator and truly feel the terror in which he felt. Edgar Allan Poe archives this through using various descriptive techniques thought the story to link every aspect in some way to the ending. It is through that; that Edgar Allan Poe archives his unity of effect in the short story The Fall of the House of Usher.

Edgar Allan Poe used imagery in every one of his writings to allow the reader to completely immerse themselves into his writings. In reading any of Edgar Allan Poe’s work it becomes obvious that Edgar Allan Poe is in many ways a master of imagery. His writing style differs greatly from any other style I have ever seen. Edgar Allan Poe allows the reader to assume to lead in each and every one of his works.

One such piece of work is the raven. In the poem the raven, Edgar Allan Poe uses great imagery to portray a felling of horror, of grief and of madness, madness brought on by the loss of a love, Lenore. The poem the raven tells of a man, a young poet who is morning the loss of his love Lenore. When suddenly there was a knock on his door when he goes to inspect it, he soon finds that there is nothing there. This goes on repeatedly until the entrance of a raven, which utters but one word “nevermore”. It is with both the raven and his uttering of “nevermore” that the poet drives himself into insanity curing, and pleading with the raven, that he believes is a messenger from the afterlife.

In the raven Edgar Allan Poe uses imagery to allow the reader to enter the world of the young poet, to revel in the madness found within. It is in the second and third stanzas that Edgar Allan Poe uses imagery to portray both the setting and the first tone of horror found in the raven.

“Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,

and each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.

Eagerly I wished the morrow; – vainly I had sought to borrow

From my books surcease of sorrow – sorrow for the lost Lenore –

For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels named Lenore –

Nameless here for evermore.

And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain

Thrilled me – filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;

So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating

`’Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door –

Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door; –

This it is, and nothing more,’

(Poe, The Raven, 1845)

In these stanzas Edgar Allan Poe begins to describe the setting, the descriptive nature in Edgar Allan Poe’s the raven chills my bones. In the raven Edgar Allan Poe used various symbols and hints to lead the reader to create an image in their head and allow them to become the poet. One such symbol is the poem being set in December. December is a cold month, its darkness and its cold, breaths death. The chill of the winter night allows the reader to imagine a dark cold windy night, the embers of the fire gently glowing on the floor; the purple curtains fluttering in the wind, each symbol bring you further into the world of the raven. This is what Edgar Allan Poe does best; he used great imagery to portray his overall tone. In the raven each and every line brings the reader deeper and deeper into madness.

Edgar Allan Poe not only uses imagery to allow the reader to enter a physical image in their mind but to also allow the reader to enter an emotional image as well. One such example is in Edgar Allan Poe’s poem Annabel Lee. In this poem Edgar Allan Poe describes his love for Virginia dubbed “Annabel Lee” and the heart ache brought about from her untimely death.

“It was many and many a year ago,

In a kingdom by the sea,

That a maiden there lived whom you may know

By the name of ANNABEL LEE;

And this maiden she lived with no other thought

Than to love and be loved by me.”

(Poe, Annabel Lee, 1849) Lines 1-6)

The Opening stanza in Annabel Lee creates a feeling of love. The repetition of the line “In a kingdom by the sea” creates a felling of solidarity of importance, that the love between you and Annabel lee is all that matters and the love you two share is in its own way a kingdom by the sea, that your love creates a world a kingdom your kingdom by the sea.

“The angels, not half so happy in heaven,

Went envying her and me-

Yes!- that was the reason (as all men know, In this kingdom by the sea)

That the wind came out of the cloud by night,

Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.”

(Poe, Annabel Lee, 1849) (Lines 21-26)

This stanza in Annabel Lee creates the image of a battle between the heavens and your Annabel lee. This stanza allow the reader to imagine angels looking down from heaven at your Annabel Lee looking with such hatred, so envy, that they had no other choice but to kill her taking your Annabel Lee. Another thing that this stanza portrays the overall obsession Edgar Allan Poe had with Virginia (Annabel Lee). To Justify Annabel Lee’s death by stating that the angels envy your love for each other so in turn they took Annabel lee’s life.

It is in the poem Annabel Lee that Edgar Allan Poe allows the reader to identify themselves with Poe himself. It is with Annabel Lee that Poe creates a vision within himself one that portrays his life with Virginia and how even in death Virginia and he will be together.

“But our love it was stronger by far than the love

Of those who were older than we-

Of many far wiser than we-

And neither the angels in heaven above,

Nor the demons down under the sea,

Can ever dissever my soul from the soul

Of the beautiful Annabel Lee.

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.”

(Poe, Annabel Lee, 1849) (Lines 27- 42)

From looking at Edgar Allan Poe’s life and from analyzing Annabel Lee I can clearly see how Edgar Allan Poe uses imagery to create a feeling of an eternal love. It can also be said that Annabel Lee creates an image of Poe that is all but flattering, one that portrays Poe and an over obsessive husband. Who even through death will both love and be with Annabel Lee. From analyzing his life and biographies one can say that Edgar Allan Poe was madly in love with Virginia, and in writing Annabel Lee, Edgar Allan Poe clearly depicts both his love and obsession for Virginia. There are many lines in Annabel lee that show this.

Edgar Allan Poe lived a life unlike any other. His life was that of death and sorrow, of heartache and misery. Edgar Allan Poe uses his tragic life as a muse in all of his pieces of work. The Red Mask of Death, The Raven, Annabel Lee, The Fall of the house of Usher, Etc all of these pieces of work represent a tragic event in Edgar Allan Poe’s life. It is in using this muse that Edgar Allan Poe can create an image so strong that the reader forgets what is real and what fiction is. It is in creating this feeling that Edgar Allan Poe truly earns his title as a master if imagery. So in conclusion Edgar Allan Poe uses great description, imagery and the unity of effect to create a world for the reader. A world of horror, of sorrow, of long lost long, that in which none could ever imagine a world of Edgar Allan Poe.

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