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Edgar Allan Poe

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Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allen Poe

By: Kiersten Essenpreis

Edgar Allan Poe Edgar Allen Poe’s contributions to American literature have become increasingly more prominent as the years have passed. As short fiction has become a more accepted genre in literary circles, Poe’s theories are studied with more passion. Although he lived a rather melancholy life, Poe did experience moments of joy, and desired to capture the beauty through poetic form. Indeed, what he left behind for the literary world was his gifted genus, revealed through his poetry, fiction, and criticism. The darkness that seems to surround Poe’s life began as an infant. Poe was born January 19, 1809 in Boston, Massachusetts. He was the second son of David and Eliza Poe, but soon after he was born, David abandoned the family. Then two years after that occurrence, Eliza died from tuberculosis. After her death, Edgar, his little sister, Rosalie, and his brother, William, were separated. While William was sent to live with his grandparents, and Rosalie was sent to a family in Richmond, Virginia, Poe moved to live with John and Fannie Allan (Silverman 1-15). John Allan was a well-known businessman, and Poe was no longer surrounded in poverty. John made sure that Poe was given a good education, and when living in England with the Allan’s, he went to private academies. The then moved back to the states, and Edgar enrolled at the University of Virginia in 1826. When he was there, he spent much of his money, and soon found himself in debt. He asked Mr. Allan to pay for it, but he refused, because he assumed that the debt was due to Poe’s constant gambling and consumption of alcohol (Silverman 29-38). It can be assumed that the greatest contributor to Poe’s disturbance was his addiction to alcohol. His foster family’s status made this problem a shameful vise, and a source of conflict. Poe used drinking as an escape of sorts, and his life was greatly affected by the substance. It disrupted his writing, his first engagement, and his time with his foster family. After he left home, he tried to make a life for himself in Boston. He was reunited with his brother, but at the young age of 24 he died which upset Poe very much. His writing became more insistent after being rejecting constantly by newspapers. Soon afterwards, he married his own cousin, Virginia, who was his symbol as the perfect woman. In 1837, he moved to New York, where competed with some of the best contemporary writers of that time. Just when his life and writing seemed to be becoming constant and somewhat stable, his wife died of tuberculosis, and this shattered Poe. His writing instantly became dark and dreary, but he used the death of his wife as inspiration to write of death and love and reunion. His worked continued to grow, and people began to notice it. But it was not until after his death on October 7, 1849 that his writing was given the recognition that it deserved (Hart 521-2). Throughout his short-lived life, Edgar Allan Poe compiled a collection of literature, poetry, short fiction, and literary criticism. Some people think that some of Poe’s criticism has endured more than his short fiction and poetry. Hart writes, “There have been strongly divergent evaluations of Poe’s literary significance, from Emerson’s dismissal of him as the ‘the jingle man’ and Lowell’s ‘three-fifths genus and two fifths, sheer fudge’ to Yeat’s declaration, ‘always and for all the lands a great lyric poet” (522). The criticism of his poetry and writing was a direct criticism on his theories, as he implemented his theories in all of his writing. For example, Poe believed that length was extremely important. Poe once wrote that, “If any literary work is too long to read at one sitting, we must be content to dispense with the immensely important effect derivable from unity of impression- for, if two sittings is required, the affairs of the world interfere, and like everything like totality is at once destroyed” (Hart 129). Thus, length was the very key to enjoyment of a poem or a short story. Unity was also very important in Poe’s writing. As Hart explains, “The single unifying factor in all of Poe’s works is the concept of unity itself” (11). He was very concerned with the relationship of words and their effect on the reader. Poe drove himself to create a dream world, one self-contained within writing itself, without the help of external forces. He did this because he did not want his writing to be dependent

on any outside variable. Now that short fiction and poetry have become an accepted genre, Poe’s theories have become even more important. When creating, Poe believed, that one should use an inverse approach to writing. He thought that the writer should have one “single effect”, which motivated the entire piece of literature. He thought that the best approach to this would be

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