School Papers

Sophia & ill-tempered” in a letter to Poe’s

Sophia
Du

Mrs.
Smith

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English
11AP

December
19, 2017

Edgar Allan Poe: Immortal

INTRODUCTION

Renowned
for his staggering resume of literary achievements, Edgar Allan Poe was a
19th-century writer, critic, and editor, with such famous works as “The Raven”
and “The Tell-Tale Heart.” Despite his accomplishments, Poe’s personal life was
far from perfect, as expressed by Charlotte Montague in Edgar Allan Poe: The Strange Man Standing Deep in the Shadows. In
fact, his life story reads as a turbulent tragedy stock full of poverty,
alcoholism, disappointment, and unrelenting misery up until the moment he died.
There was far more to Poe than meets the eye, however, as much as he is widely
seen nowadays as the embodiment of the tortured artist or mad genius archetype –
he was a pioneer of literature who rejected conformity and pushed fiction
forward with each piece of writing he created. With his macabre style and
twisted plots, Poe has left a vast and lasting footprint on modern literature
as the father of science fiction, the detective story, the short story, and a
master of horror.

SHAPING INFLUENCES

The
turmoil Poe experienced throughout his life affected him greatly. After the
disappearance of his father and the death of his mother, Edgar Poe became Edgar
Allan Poe when he was adopted by the relatively wealthy merchant John Allan and
his wife, Frances Allan (Montague 15). Poe was condemned to miserable luck,
however, as his relationship with his adoptive father became increasingly rocky
as he entered his teenage years (Montague 20). 
Despite Allan praising Poe as a “genius” at times, Poe still felt that
he had not been encouraged adequately by his father to

pursue
poetry, and in turn, Allan described Poe as “miserable, sulky, &
ill-tempered” in a letter to Poe’s brother (Montague 20). Whether the rift
between the two was caused by Allan simply failing to accommodate adolescent
angst or by something more complicated, their bond deteriorated further in
Allan’s adulthood. Allan sent Poe to the University of Virginia, where the
young writer earned exemplary grades, but Allan soon removed his son from the
school due to Poe’s accumulating gambling debt and his budding alcohol abuse;
being forced to leave the university was a massive source of bitterness for Poe
later on, as he wrote in a letter to his father that it was “wholly and
entirely Allan’s own mistaken parsimony” which led to Poe’s difficulties in
college (Montague 23). Evidently, Poe held anger towards Allan from adolescence
until adulthood, but their relationship would only continue to worsen with
time.

After he left his father’s mansion to
live on his own, Poe still found himself consistently in financial trouble, and
often wrote letters to Allan begging for money that he would never receive,
saying in one instance, “for God’s sake pity me, and save me from destruction”
(Montague 31). Poe’s pathetic letters were products of his hope that Allan felt
enough of a sense of affection or even obligation towards him that he would
make some effort to “save” Poe, and the lack of even a reply was surely
crushing, especially considering how Poe had felt as though his father did not
support him from the time he was a child. Unfortunately, Poe would never get
the chance to repair their relationship; he attempted to see Allan on Allan’s
deathbed, only to be ordered out of the room before he had a chance to speak
(Montague 32). Poe unmistakably had much to be both bitter and remorseful over
when it came to his relationship with his adoptive father, especially with
Allan’s immense and final insult – omitting Poe from his will despite dying a
wealthy man (Montague 32).

Unfortunately, Allan was just one of
many disappointing losses in Poe’s life. As a

teenager,
Poe fell in love with his friend’s mother, Jane Stanard, who often “consoled
and

comforted”
him when he was unhappy (which was, unfortunately, frequently the case), but
she suddenly grew ill and died in 1824 (Patterson). Poe’s aforementioned
adoptive mother, Frances Allan, to whom he was much closer than his adoptive
father, died of tuberculosis five years before John Allan’s death (Patterson).
In 1836, at the age of 26, he fell in love with and married his 13-year-old
cousin, Virginia Clemm, only for her to die of tuberculosis 11 years after
their marriage (Patterson). The deaths which seemed to plague Poe certainly
contributed greatly to the devastating loneliness  and unhappiness he experienced, and likely
related is a pattern of beautiful women dying in his poems, such as in “Annabel
Lee,” “The Fall of the House of Usher,” and “The Oval Portrait.”

In addition to tragedy, Poe struggled
with poverty throughout his life (as shown by the letters pleading for his
father to send him money), despite the fact that his writing gained him
substantial recognition (Patterson). In fact, Poe’s most popular poem, “The
Raven,” earned him a measly sum of $9 (about $280 today) (Montague 106).

The variety of struggles Poe faced
manifested themselves in the form of substance abuse – however, the extent of
this substance abuse appears less severe than is widely believed. For example,
Poe mourned greatly after his wife’s death, developing a dependence on alcohol
during this period; tellingly, he stated about his addiction that his enemies
“referred the insanity to the drink rather than the drink to the insanity”
(“Edgar Allan Poe, Drugs, and Alcohol”). Poe’s fight against addiction bled
into his writing at times, where his characters seem to reflect their creator
to some extent, such as in “The Black Cat,” in which the narrator recognizes
his own descent into insanity but is powerless to stop it, cutting out his pet
cat’s eye while drunk and later murdering his wife (Montague 94). Despite the
prominence of alcohol in his writing, the fact that alcohol is painted in a
decidedly negative light nonetheless conveys Poe’s unambiguously negative
feelings towards substance abuse. He alternated between drinking excessively in
times

 

of
anguish and promising to never drink again, but towards the end of his life,
Poe put greater

effort
into avoiding alcohol; in 1841, he wrote a letter where he stated that it had
been “four years since he abandoned every kind of alcoholic drink,” though he
later began to drink again (“Edgar Allan Poe, Drugs, and Alcohol”). Poe also became
a member of the Sons of Temperance in 1849, who agreed after his mysterious
death just one month after his initiation that “he had not been drinking”
(“Edgar Allan Poe, Drugs, and Alcohol”). Evidently, Poe was highly affected by
his troubled life at times, although he is not the caricature that he is often
mistaken for.

WORK

Poe’s
imagination and creativity were unrivaled, and one of his many contributions to
literature is his analytical process as both a critic and an author. There were
two central points Poe believed to be prerequisites for good writing, both of
which he claimed to personally follow as well as judge others’ works by:
firstly, the piece should create a “unity of effect” upon the reader, and
secondly, each detail in a piece of writing, no matter how minuscule, had to be
a product of careful deliberation by the author rather than a product of
inspiration or chance (“Edgar Allan Poe”). His insistence on formalism stemmed
from his philosophy that through careful and calculated language, one may
express, albeit imperfectly, “a vision of truth and the essential condition of
human existence” (“Edgar Allan Poe”). Poe’s self-proclaimed intention was to
create artistic principles in a society he viewed as placing far too much
emphasis on the practical uses of writing, an inclination he dubbed the “heresy
of didactic” (“Edgar Allan Poe”). Earlier critics generally focused on
ideological or moral qualms in their criticism, while Poe concerned himself more
with style and language use when analyzing the effectiveness of work,
incorporating a level of precision in his analysis which other American
criticism lacked (for example, examining meter and diction in a piece of poetry
and their effect on the poem’s overall impact) (“Edgar Allan Poe”). Poe is
rarely, if ever, credited with the birth of perceptive literary and rhetorical
analysis, but with his demand of linguistic discipline in his criticism, he was
perhaps one of its first American proponents.

            Though Poe’s work as a critic was
impactful, his works of fiction were undoubtedly his most influential. Poe
breathed life into the detective story with “The Murders in the Rue
Morgue,” “The Purloined Letter,” and “The Mystery of Marie
Rogêt,” the first of which being arguably the most influential short story to
arise from the nineteenth century (Montague 70). They served as models,
establishing character archetypes and general plotlines that remain familiar to
this day: namely, the sharp amateur detective who solves a crime experienced
authorities have been incapable of unravelling (C. Auguste Dupin in Poe’s
stories), accompanied by an associate who documents and explains the former’s
investigative feats (“Edgar Allan Poe”). “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” in
particular was widely commended for its ingenuity and originality, as well as
the appeal of Dupin’s cleverness; however, despite the first story’s
popularity, “The Mystery of Marie Rogêt” found less success due to the lack of
a satisfying conclusion; this last story focused on debunking theories and
speculating, and not the actual solving of a mystery (74). Later, Poe attempted
to publish his mysteries in England with help from Charles Dickens, who he came
into contact with in 1842, but they found no publishers willing to print his
stories (Montague 74).

Another genre Poe fathered is horror. His
best known work was, and still is, “The Raven,” published in 1845, which introduced
a unique element of psychological intensity to horror through the story of a
man’s slow descent into insanity while he is visited by a talking raven
(Montague 103). Poe wrote the piece with the intent of catering to the tastes
of the general public and the elite; he was more than successful, and awoke
after its publication to find that his poem had brought him overnight success –
in fact, “The Raven” was the most popular poem ever

written
by an American at the time (Montague 104). Unfortunately, “The Raven” provided
little

other
than fame; as previously mentioned, Poe had sold the poem for just $9, and he continued
to suffer from the same on-and-off dependence on alcohol as he had before its
publication (Montague 151). Still, “The Raven” was the most successful of many horror
tales Poe wrote, and he is accredited with having created the modern horror story.
His influence on the genre continues to be felt over a century and a half after
his death, with current-day horror writers following in his footsteps.

CRITIQUE

Figure
1. A statue of Sherlock Holmes.
 

Poe
earned respect during his lifetime as a gifted author and poet, but it was not until
after his death that his ingenuity truly made itself known in the form of long-lasting
legacies.

Effect on Detective Stories.
As
previously mentioned, Poe essentially singlehandedly created the detective
story with his 1841 piece “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” establishing
unspoken rules and tropes still currently associated with the genre (Montague
167). Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, author of the legendary 1892 collection of short
stories The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes,
once said: “Where was the detective story before Poe breathed the breath of
life into it?” (Montague 167). Doyle and Poe’s stories share an assortment of
parallels: Holmes and Dupin are both eccentric, shrewd detectives whose minds
work in similarly methodical ways, and Dr. Watson and the narrator of “The
Murders in the Rue Morgue” both act as the detective’s less clever partner and
a conduit for the detective’s thoughts; even some of the less substantial
details of Poe’s story, such as the policeman’s personality and Dupin’s lack of
interest in anything other than intellectual pursuits, are preserved in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes within
their corresponding characters (Montague 169). As the creator of one of the
most iconic detective characters of all time, Doyle’s

 

belief
in Poe’s significance and the inspiration he took from Poe have tremendous weight.
Doyle’s novel contributed significantly to Poe’s legacy of detective stories,
and helped carry on the basic skeleton Poe established before him.

Effect on Science
Fiction. Another genre Poe influenced greatly was science fiction.
His work did not involve the aliens, laser guns, or time machines which are now
associated with the genre, since his writing was limited by the progress of
science at the time he lived; Poe instead incorporated up-to-date scientific
information in his tales (Montague 169). H.G. Wells, a pioneer of the genre,
stated that “the fundamental principles of the construction” behind stories
such as “Murders in the Rue Morgue” and in “The Pit and the Pendulum” are
“precisely those that should guide a scientific writer” (Montague 169). Another
science fiction pioneer, Jules Verne, also admired Poe – in “Five Weeks in a
Balloon,” an explorer travels across Africa in a hot air balloon, a story
influenced by “The Balloon Hoax,” where Poe wrote a plausible account of a
balloon trip across the Atlantic Ocean (Montague 169). One of Verne’s most distinguished
novels, “Around the World in Eighty Days,” in which the main character lies,
cheats, and generally goes to great lengths to prove in a bet that he can
travel the world in eighty days, was based upon the same general concept as
Poe’s “Three Sundays in a Week,” in which a couple uses the International Date
Line after being challenged to experience three Sundays in the same week (Montague
169). Just as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is an authoritative source in the world of
detective stories, Wells and Verne’s admiration of Poe as a writer not only aided
in carrying on Poe’s legacy, but they also hold inherent weight as judges of
his work. Though Poe’s influence on science fiction is

less
direct than his influence on the detective story, his impact is still
significant.

Effect on Horror Stories.
Although
he has made many contributions to modern literature, the genre that Poe is
arguably the most known for influencing is horror. Unfortunately, after Poe’s
death in 1849, his reputation was butchered by Rufus Griswold, an editor who
criticized Poe as “cynical, envious, and arrogant” and attributed the many
depravities of Poe’s characters to Poe himself, adding that

Figure 3. Stephen
King.

his
writings “exhibit…scarcely any virtue” (Montague 160). While Griswold’s character
assassination was taken seriously for years to come due to his status as a
respected literary figure, his critique is hardly accurate; Poe had often
ridiculed Griswold in Poe’s own pieces of criticism, and Griswold likely saw
his defamation as revenge (Montague 160). In fact, Poe’s friends and family
rallied to defend him, attempting to combat Griswold’s fabrications, which
sadly continued to be perpetuated since the scandalous inaccuracies tended to make
newspapers sell. Fortunately, Griswold’s influence was far less enduring than
Poe’s. H.P. Lovecraft, a prominent 20th-century writer of horror
fiction, attributed the modern horror story to Poe, saying that Poe “paved the
way by creating a whole atmosphere and method which lesser men can follow with
relative ease” (Montague 173). Stephen King, who fans may consider to be the
modern-day Poe with novels such as The
Shining, It, and Carrie, stated that “Poe was the first
guy to write about main characters who were bad guys or who were mad guys,” and
that Poe influenced many of King’s favorite authors, adding, “we were all
twisted by our evil grandfather” (Montague 173). As hugely prominent figures in
horror fiction, King and Lovecraft’s opinions toward Poe are valid and
substantial. Simply by writing under Poe’s influence, King and Lovecraft, along
with thousands of less conspicuous writers, continually perpetuate the most notable
attributes of Poe’s stories –

for
instance, Poe’s interest in science is conserved in Lovecraft’s stories, and
the use of

psychological
elements is shared by King and Poe’s writing; in this way, Poe’s influence is
carried on through generations of writers. As Barry T. Zeman, a historian and
archivist, aptly stated, “we as a society are entwined with Poe…he is our
father and our symbol” (Hockensmith). Poe was a man of many literary originations,
from detective stories to science fiction to horror. His influence is a
constant undercurrent in society that has yet to fade, permeating literature
today in the form of consumed entertainment.

CONCLUSION

Poe lived a life full of difficulties, receiving
only occasional notable success and recognition in return. In adolescence and
young adulthood, Poe struggled with his relationship to his father; as an adult,
Poe struggled continuously with poverty and recurrent alcoholism. Still, Poe’s talent
was in literature, and writing, along with misfortune, was a constant for him. His
writing suitably reflects his personal life with its distinctive focus on loss
and the macabre. His innovations, though underappreciated at the time, included
essentially inventing three different genres of literature. At the age of
forty, on October 7, 1849, Edgar Allan Poe died a mysterious death after four
days of delirious pain (Montague 158). However, with his many legacies taken
into consideration, it is evident that Poe’s voice has yet to perish with him –
in every horror story, in every detective novel, in every piece of science fiction,
Poe’s presence lingers as a constant reminder of his unmatched literary
innovation and creative genius.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Annotated
Bibliography

“Edgar Allan Poe.” Poetry Foundation, Poetry Foundation, https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/edgar-allan-poe.
Accessed 27 Nov. 2017.

           

“Edgar Allan Poe” outlines Poe’s life, but focuses primarily
on the effects of his writing. The article begins with a short biography, including
his childhood, influences, and the beginnings of his career, then changes focus
to a fairly in-depth analysis of Poe’s own influences as well as his effects on
the world of literature and his motives for writing what he wrote. The use of specific
examples of Poe’s most influential works and the work that he affected
effectively enhances the article’s use of logos. Additionally, the article
provides insight into the mixed critical reception of Poe’s works at the time
of their release. Overall, “Edgar Allan Poe” offers a credible, discerning view
into Poe’s influence on different forms of literature. Information on Poe’s
work as a critic and his impact on the detective story genre was used.

 

“Edgar Allan Poe, Drugs, and Alcohol.” Edgar Allan Poe, The Edgar Allan Poe
Society of Baltimore, 24 Jan. 2009, https://www.eapoe.org/geninfo/poealchl.htm.
Accessed 29 Nov. 2017.

           

            This
article provides a comprehensive look at Poe’s relationship with alcohol,
focusing on debunking popular beliefs about how much and how often Poe drank. “Edgar
Allan Poe, Drugs, and Alcohol” provides many quotes from letters sent by Poe or
from those who knew him throughout his life in chronological order, as well as
some analysis of these quotes, effectively telling the story of Poe’s life through
the lens of his strange on-

and-off reliance on alcohol. Though this article is
strongly researched and solid in its use of logos, with many reliable direct
quotes, the author was biased to protect Poe’s reputation, and was quick to
dismiss the idea that Poe was overly reliant on alcohol; the author emphasized
the effort Poe put into stopping his drinking rather than the many times Poe’s
efforts failed, and is unsuccessful in providing a complete view of Poe’s
alcoholism. Still, combined with other sources, a reasonable understanding of
Poe may be gained; information about Poe’s drinking was used in the “Shaping
Influences” section.

 

Hockensmith, Steve. “Evermore: The Enduring Influence
of Edgar Allan Poe.” Mystery Scene,
Mystery Scene Magazine, https://www.mysteryscenemag.com/46-articles/feature/38-evermore-the-enduring-influence-of-edgar-allan-poe.
Accessed 5 Dec. 2017.

 

            Hockensmith’s
article focuses most heavily on Poe’s effect on literature, specifically on
horror stories. However, it does begin with an overview of Poe’s life, career,
and death, where Poe is relatively accurately portrayed as a troubled innovator
whose alcoholism hindered his reputation and work. The article then moves on to
provide a plethora of quotes from authoritative sources in the horror genre,
supporting Poe’s lasting importance for those interested in mystery and for those
interested in writing generally.  Hockensmith
is an award-winning author for several books in the mystery genre, and his
article gives a credible, comprehensive overview of Poe’s life and legacy. From
this article, information concerning Poe’s legacy was used.

 

Leonard,
Shane. “Stephen King.” Stephen King, http://stephenking.com/the_author.html.
Accessed 11 December 2017.

Montague,
Charlotte. Edgar Allan Poe: The Strange
Man Standing Deep in the Shadows. Chartwell Books, 2015.

 

            Montague’s biography offers an in-depth,
well-researched look into the mind of Edgar Allan Poe. Presenting her wealth of
information in short sections, Montague details Poe’s life and career from
beginning to end, including his many motivations and struggles. She then discusses
Poe’s influence on literature and American entertainment as a whole. She is
also careful to provide as unbiased a view of Poe’s life as possible, disputing
misconceptions where necessary and criticizing when appropriate, as well as
including an assortment of letters and documented events on almost every page;
therefore, Montague’s biography is likely trustworthy. Montague’s information became
invaluable throughout the process of researching and writing, but was
especially useful in the “Shaping Influences” and “Critique” sections of the paper.

 

Nadar, Félix. “Jules Verne.” Wired, 8
Feb. 2012, https://www.wired.com/2012/02/feb-8-1828-a-literary-master-is-born/.
Accessed 11 December 2017.

Patterson, Robert. “Once Upon a Midnight Dreary: The
Life and Addictions of Edgar Allan Poe.” National Center for Biotechnology Information, National Center for
Biotechnology Information, 15 Oct. 2012, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1336506.
Accessed 7 Dec. 2017.

 

            In “Once
Upon a Midnight Dreary,” Patterson provides a summary of Poe’s life, with some
analysis of the motivation behind his poetry. Patterson mainly focuses on outlining
the tragedy Poe experienced in his personal life in chronological order, including
the

 

deaths of many of his loved ones and his alcoholism,
often connecting  Poe’s misfortune to his
writing and citing specific stories where characters appear to reflect Poe
himself. Patterson’s article is effective and logical, at certain points supporting
claims with letters written by Poe. Much of the information provided by
Patterson is also agreed upon by other sources; therefore, the article is likely
trustworthy. Patterson’s article was most useful in the “Shaping Influences”
section of the paper.

 

“Sherlock
Holmes Statue.” Edinburgh City of
Literature, City of Literature, www.cityofliterature.com/a-to-z/sherlock-holmes-statue.
Accessed 10 December 2017.

 

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