Edgar Allan Poe: Crazy Drunk or Brilliant Literaryist? (Is that a word I wo | Teen Ink

Edgar Allan Poe: Crazy Drunk or Brilliant Literaryist? (Is that a word I wo

July 31, 2011
By Love1321 PLATINUM, Harrisville, Utah
Love1321 PLATINUM, Harrisville, Utah
21 articles 26 photos 74 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Sometimes all a person needs is a hand to hold and a heart that understands." Anonymous

“From childhood’s I have not been
As others were-I have not seen
As the others saw-I could not bring
My passions from a common spring
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow-I have not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone
I lov’d-I loved alone.” (Poe, Pg. 10)

This poem’s voice was filled of melancholy. And the author seemed sage and calm. Wouldn’t you like this writer if you met face to face? But what if I told you this was written by an insane drunk going by the name of Poe? Edgar Allan Poe? Who is Edgar Allan Poe? To you? To America?

Edgar Allan Poe was known for his excellent work as a literary critic, editor, author, and poet. He excelled in mystery, macabre, and horror. Not only that, he was credited as the inventor of the detective genre and even our beloved Sci-Fi! His famous work would have to be The Raven. His work was so dark and sometimes, even disturbing, readers have a hard time reading it. But what made him the way he is at the time? Who was Edgar Allan Poe?

Edgar Allan Poe was born on January 19, 1809 in Boston, Massachusetts. Unfortunately the tot was fatherless when he arrived into the world. His father had ditched him and his mother, unable to carry the burden of being a parent. Not even a year later, Poe’s mother died of tuberculosis after giving birth. Poe was separated by the remainder of his family and was “adopted” by John and Frances Allan. Why the quotations you ask? John and Frances never “officially” adopted him. As a child, Poe never really established a good relationship with his adopted father. However, the boy received excellent schooling in England. There, Poe, at age 12, was already creating his mature poetry. He attended the University of Virginia for one semester but was expelled after having issues with his gambling and drinking problems. At age 16, Poe enlisted in the army and attended Cadet School in West Point. However, he failed and was discharged.

Most people, when learning about Poe, wonder why he was such a troubled person. Critics believe that it all started when his father left him and his mother and when she died. The trauma he was experiencing when he was separated from his family messed him up. Also, his adopted father, Mr. Allan was a bit of a, well, a jerk. Mr. Allan never really understood Poe and this did not help them develop a good relationship with one and another.
Others asked why he married his thirteen year old cousin. In theory, he was losing most of his family. (Real father abandoned him, mother dead, siblings far away, and his adopted parents were never there) and he was clinging to the people he had left. Also, both sides of the families were experiencing financial problems and the only resolution was to join them together. Plus, back in the day, these marriages were quite common and “sociably acceptable” (Lemon) at the time. They didn’t know of the genetic issues it would cause them if the couple decided to have a child. Of course, there is no doubt that it seems more than strange to us now.

This is what everyone asks: How did Edgar Allan Poe change America’s literature? All the credit, believe it or not, goes to his troublesome childhood and drunkenness. “If he wasn’t so messed up, he wouldn’t have been so good.” (Lemon) Writers, unlike, other people, have the ability to turn emotions (For Poe’s case, depression) “into things that are beautiful.” (Lemon) Using these emotions, he created different plot lines and story lines, which affected horror greatly. His macabre revolutionized the whole genre of horror! He was responsible for creating the detective genre and beginning of science fiction. His poems that focused on verbal music made from the words he wrote, made people, like me, fall in love with his work. Like Ernest Hemingway, Poe “could say more in a sentence in a way than most people could say in a whole book.”

Though, through this kind of failure, neglect, and never getting Mr. Allan’s acceptance, Poe began his literary career. In Baltimore, he won a short story contest with the short story MS in a Bottle. This helped him open the door of the magazine world. In the magazine world, he was a proofreader, book reviewer, essayist, editor, and journalist. Although, he didn’t last long as a journalist. His gambling and drunkenness caused him to lose his many jobs, going along his trail of potential jobs. His skills were recognized, however his bad habits shadowed this.

When Poe turned 27, he married his 13 year old cousin Virginia Clem. The newlywed couple, plus the bride’s mother, moved to Fordham, New York. There Virginia died of tuberculosis in 1847. Her death, many believe, was the inspiration of one of his most popular poems Annabel Lee. This poem is about the death of beautiful, young maiden. It was written beautifully with the somber mood and “suitably musical language.” (Poe Pg. 6)

Despite this unsettling event in his life, Poe continued to write. He wrote The Raven, “one of Poe’s few poems of dramatic monologue.” (Poe, Pg. 5) The plot of this poem is about a man who lost his true love and goes completely nuts while talking to a raven. He also wrote The Bells. An ingenious poem that uses words to make bell-like sounds. “The Bells calls for, almost demands, a listening rather than a reading audience.” (Poe Pg.5) Throughout his life, Poe wrote a variety of stories and poetry: MS in a Bottle, Descent into the Maelstrom, Black Cat, Fall of the House of Usher, The Pit and Pendulum, The Cask of Amontillado, The Tell-Tale Heart, Berenice, Ligiea etc.

His most important, or most influential of these works was Cask of Amontillado, The Tell-Tale Heart, and of course, The Raven. All of these works mirror Poe: All are exploring the darkness in the human mind, the absolute madness that Poe had obtained throughout his life. Ever heard the saying that you are what you eat? In the world of writers, its “You are what you write.” However, he had never committed a crime, but it makes you wonder: What the hell was Poe thinking?

In the Cask of Amontillado, the main character was a madman who buried his friend alive. In The Tell-Tale Heart, the main character kills his friend and buries him, meanwhile telling the reading audience that what he did was not crazy. Of course, we all know that this act is beyond crazy. In The Raven, like I had said before, was about a man who lost his true love and goes insane, then to go on an extra measure, commits suicide and succeeds. Like Annabel Lee, the inspiration of this poem could be from Poe’s own loss of his sweet Virginia. Poe’s life affects his work, as well as his work affecting readers.

After a while, he became engaged to Mrs. Shelton, his friend’s mother. From Richmond, he travelled to Baltimore to fetch Mrs. Clem for the wedding “where he encountered…no one knows.” (Wikipedia) He never made it to his own wedding. He was found in an alley, dirty, injured, and sick. He was then taken to the hospital where he died four days later on October 7, 1849. He was only 40. Despite all the wrongs and rights of his life, his death was unfortunate. Because like his poem Alone, he literally had died alone.

So who is Edgar Allan Poe really? He was a literary critic, editor, author, and poet. He was known for his phenomenal work in mystery, macabre, and horror. He is the inventor of the detective genre and the start of science fiction. He was a slightly arrogant and drunk madman. Or an insecure man who had a romantic image of his own belief. He was also known as a “Black Angel” –since he lived from hand to mouth because of a cruel and unappreciative world.” (Baudelaire, Poe, Pg. 5) Some called him a Byronic hero, a melancholy genius of lineage, but a lineage mysteriously associated with evil or scandal, who defies the insensitive world. I like to think of his as a tortured artist, that no one will completely love and understand until after he’s gone. One thing is for certain, Edgar Allan Poe was a madman…with pure artistic abilities of magical quality.

Edgar Allan Poe, who are you?

Works Cited
Edgar Allan Poe. 23 May 2011. 25 May 2011 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edgar_Allan_Poe>.
Edgar Allan Poe. n.d. 13 May 2011 <http://www.enotes.com/authors/edgar-allan-poe>.
Lemon, Kevin. Edgar Allan Poe Love1321. 12 May 2011.
Poe, Edgar Allan. Complete Tales and Poems. Edison, New Jersey: Castle Books, 2002. 1-15.

The author's comments:
Everyone talked crap on Edgar Allan Poe wherever I went...and for awhile, I believed the crap they were saying. But when I got the opportunity to write an expository essay on him for school, I knew I couldn't miss it. I was determined to prove that Edgar Allan Poe was more than, well, a Crazy Drunk like everyone sees him as...This piece gave me more passion to write ever. More than my wonderful fantasy that I stuck to like glue and loved. I guess I'm one of those Edgar Allan Poe enthusiasts. But we all are asking the same question: "Who was Edgar Allan Poe?" Really?

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This article has 1 comment.

on Apr. 11 2013 at 8:50 pm
WarriorPuella, Denver, Colorado
0 articles 0 photos 13 comments

Favorite Quote:
“The difference between reality and fiction? Fiction has to make sense.” -Tom Clancy

I'm surprised there aren't any comments on this! Very good article, to start out.  I liked how you kept an air of mystery, much as Poe himself did. I read this article after being required to read "The Masque of the Red Death" in my Creative Writing class.  I didn't like the story.  In fact, I don't like Edgar Allan Poe that much.  He's a little too creepy for my taste.  "The Masque of the Red Death" brought something to my attention: With all due respect, I think Poe was nuts. My reasoning?  I am an avid writer myself, and I hold myself in the opinion that I can understand writers to an extent because I am one myself.  As you so wisely pointed out, "You are what you write." What did he write?  In my humble opinion, he wrote disturbing, dark, and downright freaky poems and stories.  Maybe I'm just naive and sheltered to the world of horror, but I think that his obsession with murder, death, and suicide is a great insight into his own brain. So maybe he wasn't a murderer.  He never killed anyone that I know of.  But he sure as heck thought about it a lot, as is evident from his writing.  Now, I expect that every horror writer must think a lot about horrible topics.  But I still think that he had a screw loose, somewhere. The thing that I find most horrible about Poe's work is the way that it is narrated/written.  He was, without a doubt, very talented.  The way that he uses words, the way word flow under his pen...That's something special.  That is a gift.  I will not deny that.  But the way that his words draw the reader in even as the writer/narrator seems so detached and cold...somehow it makes it even more terrible.  I could probably stand "The Masque of the Red Death," if there was some feeling in it, besides the characters' own fear and dread, and my mirror of their emotions.  But the way Poe writes it...It is as though a mundane and normal thought occured to him and he thought he had best write it down.  He does not write it with feeling, with horror, with dread.  He does not write it as though he is disturbed by his own story. On the other hand, when I write, I'm there.  I am the character (which is one of the reasons I write in first person), and I am the story.  If I produced something like that, I would be shuddering and trembling, and I would be filled with horror and dread and terror...and I would be disturbed with my own mind, though I would, perhaps, ultimately accept it.  He does not seem to feel any of these.  What I think is most disturbing about Poe is his ability to write something terrible and depressing and freaky, and write it without any real emotion.  Perhaps he felt some emotion.  But he didn't express it in his writing. I am led to believe that he did not feel any emotion, though.  I am no expert on Poe (it doesn't seem that anyone is, really, but I really don't know anything about him), but I do believe that when a writer feels an emotion concerning his story, he will subconciously introduce it into his prose.  What scares me is that there is no sign of this in Poe's writing.  He is detached from it in an eerie and almost inhuman way. Poe was more than just "dark" in my opinion.  He wasn't "just" a horror writer.  I think that he had a freaky mind, disturbing thoughts, and a way of writing that was genius but almost...evil.  Poe went beyond the "mad genius."  I think he was just plain mad, with a touch of genius that only added to his madness.