The Red ScareMany people label Edgar Allen Poe a horror writer, plain and simple others refer to Poe as the father of the detective story, but over all he?s one Americas greatest writers. His ability of expressing the world in gothic ways, really captures the reader?s attention. Even though he lead a tough life and was known as a sadistic drug addict and alcoholic, he still managed to produce great pieces of literature. Three of his greatest works were The Tell Tale heart, The Fall of the House Usher, and The Raven. All of these are very known troughout the world and are considered three of Poe?s greatest pieces.
He was born in Boston on January 19, 1809, his parents, regular members of Federal street theater, named him Edgar Poe. Shortly before his mother’s death in Richmond, Virginia on December 8, 1811, his father abandoned the family. John Allen, a wealthy tobacco merchant in Richmond, brought Poe into the family (at his wife’s request), and gave him the middle name Allen as a baptismal name, though he never formally adopted him. Even though Allen?s treatment toward Poe is not exactly known, we know that Allen never treated Poe with sensitivity. In 1815, the Allen family moved to England on business. There, Poe entered the Manor-House School in Stoke-Newington, a London suburb. This school taught him the gothic architecture and historical landscape of the region made a deep imprint on his youthful imagination, which would effect his adult writings (Levin, 14). The Allens left England in June 1820, and arrived in Richmond on August 2. Here, Poe entered the English and Classical School of Joseph H. Clarke, a graduate of Trinity College in Dublin. On February 14, 1826, Poe entered the University of Virginia. Though he spent more time gambling and drinking than studying, he won top honors in French and Latin.
On May 26, 1827, Poe enlisted in the US Army under the name Edgar A. Perry. He joined Battery H of the 1st Artillery, then stationed at Fort Independence. While Poe served there, Calvin F.S. Thomas printed Poe’s first book, Tamerlane and Other Poems, a slim volume, which failed to earn any fame or money. Poe then visited Baltimore, and arranged for the printing of another slim volume, entitled Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane, and Minor Poems. Then, Allen obtained an appointment for him as a cadet, so on July 1, 1830 he entered West Point Military Academy, making his residence at No. 28 in the South Barracks. Poe’s military career, however, flopped. After his dismissal, he published a third volume of poetry, this one dedicated to the US Corps of Cadets, for he had taken a subscription from them to raise funds. He then settled in Baltimore with his impoverished aunt, Maria Clemm, her daughter, Virgina Clemm, and his older brother, William Henry Leonard. He tried looking for work as a teacher in Baltimore, but another person got the job and Thomas Willis White hired him as an editor at The Southern Literary Messenger, in which he published short stories, poems, and ascorbic literary reviews. In October, the Clemms joined him, and in May he married his cousin Virginia.
The rest of his life, Poe suffered from severe mental depression and declining physical health. In 1838, he published his only novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym. In December, 1839, he lost his job because of the intense rumors of his excessive drinking habits. By late 1846, financial woes and Poe’s own continuing decline ended the magazine (Levin, 18). In January 1847, his wife died in their cottage at Fordham. This made his poverty and instability worst. He continued to write, and engaged in unsuccessful publishing schemes and romances, until, on October 3, 1849, Joseph W. Walker found him unconscious, (thought to be intoxicated) in the street. Poe remained hospitalized, oscillating between a somatic state and violent delirium, until his death at 5 am on the 7th of 1849.
Poe’s literature hardly relates to the harsh realities of 19th century life. The dark, chaotic, romantic worlds he created represent an escape from the real, unromantic miseries of life to a place where miseries become grand, beautiful things. The story The Tell Tale Heart portrays the mad obsession of a man with an old man?s eye. The narrator in the story tries to convince us that he?s not mad, but only he is very careful by planning and executing the crime. Over all the story is about a man obsessed with an old man?s eye and the fact that he cannot bare to even look at it. His hatred toward the eye drives him insane and to the point that he plots a way to kill the old man. By the end of the story the man is completely insane, because he imagines and hears the beating of the dead old man?s heart buried under the floor boards. He finally confesses out of pure insanity and the police arrest him. By murdering the old man, he will never show his awful eye to anyone ever again. Also there is knowledge that in ancient times the possession of a blue evil eye was the ability to have powers and harm people. We can speculate that the narrator may not have been mad, maybe he knew the tales of the evil powered eyes, and all he wanted to do was to get rid of it, so it wouldn’t cause any harm. As the narrator keeps insisting that he?s not mad, the reader soon realizes that the fear of the old man?s eye has consumed the narrator, who has now fallen into a state of madness.
The Fall of the House of Usher, the remediation of two siblings suffering from odd illnesses and their hospitality to an old friend. Roderick and his twin sister Madeline are both suffering from rather strange illnesses. Roderick suffers from a morbid acuteness of the senses; while Madeline’s illness is characterized by …a settled apathy, a gradual wasting away of the person, and frequent although transient affections of a partly cataleptical character… which caused her to lose consciousness and feeling. The body would then assume a deathlike rigidity (Stuart, 86). Roderick, in other words is completely mad and then tries to drive the narrator insane too. Madeline is presumed dead, but then appears to them in the night and dies at an instant on Roderick?s harms, also taking Roderick with her as she dies. The narrator rushes out of the decayed mansion and as he travels away from it, he sees the mansion begin to shake and crumble. Slowly it falls to the ground leaving just fragments of the Famous House of Usher.
In many of Poe?s stories, the reader and the narrator begin to enter a state of madness and fantasy becomes reality. Here in the story, Roderick accuses the narrator of being insane. But at the end, the narrator escapes and watches the siblings and the house itself fall into it?s dark end.
Every little detail in the story, from the description of the decayed trees outside the house, to the storm that hits when Madeline appears, adds to the cause of Rodericks madness. By being twins, Roderick and Madeline are connected in some peculiar way. As Madeline dies, she takes her twin with her, because in some way they are connected mentally. In the story, when fantasy suppresses reality and the physical self, it results in Roderick?s death. Madeline’s return and actual death reunites the twin natures of their single being, and proves his death as he anticipated in his madness. The narrator is again accused of being a mad man by Roderick at the end of the stories, but even though he is thought to be mad, he still manages to escape before the house crashes down on him.
The sorrow of his lost Leonor is the main subject in Poe?s poem The Raven. The narrator has lost a treasured love named Leonor. In the story he is sad for her return and as the raven appears to him, he decides to ask him questions. All he gets as an answer is nevermore. The narrator then starts to believe that the raven is some kind of evil being and tries to make him leave. The narrator imposes self torture on himself and using the bust of Pallas leads the narrator to think that the raven speaks only of wisdom.
When Poe published the story The Raven, he also wrote an essay on the creation of the story, it was titled The Philosophy of Composition. In that essay Poe describes the work of composing the poem as if it were a mathematical problem. The most important thing to consider is the fact that The Raven, as well as many of Poe’s tales, is written backwards. The effect comes first, and then the whole plot is set, then the story grows backward from there. Poe’s tales of ratiocination, e.g. the Dupin tales, are written in the same manner. Nothing is more clear than that every plot, worth the name, must be elaborated to its denouement before anything be attempted with the pen (Poe, 1850).
Poe was on a mission to make his story The Raven universally appreciable. So Poe choose as the theme of the poem, beauty, since Beauty is the sole legitimate province of the poem (Poe, 1850). He also used the topic of death in his poem. This was so it could be universally understood. Poe (along with other writers) believed that the death of a beautiful woman was the most poetical use of death, because the death of beauty was tragic.
After establishing subjects and tones of the poem, Poe started by writing the stanza that brought the narrator to interrogate the raven, this brought the poem to it?s climax, in the third verse from the end, Poe worked backwards from this stanza and used the word nevermore in many different ways, so that even with the repetition of this word, it would not prove to be monotonous. Poe builds up tension stanza by stanza, but then after the climaxing stanza he just lets the story fall and lets the narrator know that there is no meaning in searching for a moral in the raven’s nevermore. The raven is just a symbol of the narrator mournfulness and his sorrow of his lost Leonor.
Poe?s ways to describe his gothic settings make him similar to Ernest Hemingway. He uses the same ways to describe how things are, so the reader can really imagine them. With his descriptions he makes the reader paranoid about their surroundings, and makes them wonder everything around. Most all of Poe?s characters, are lonely and mentally distressed people. Most of his characters try to escape the real world and try to enter the insane world they create. By the end of the poems, the characters are considered completely insane or death comes to them. In most cases the main character or the narrator of the story usually enter the insane world, but sometimes he manages to escape and comes back to reality.
In conclusion, poe was the creator of the short story. The short story may have excisted before, but Poe perfected it. Even though he perished in a sad and lonely death, he was a genius at his work. He was truly America’s greatest terror and horror writer. So I restate that Poe was one of the greatest writers that ever lived and his mind was of a genius and it should never have put to such torture by the criticism of human kind. His mind was very precious and all we can do now is to feel sorry for him, because being such a gifted writer he shouldn’t have died in such a lonely and sad state.