Free «Edgar Allan Poe: Too Short a Story» Essay Sample

The legendary figure of Edgar Allan Poe as a critic, editor and writer during his short 40 year life has become the father of the detective and, to some extent, mystery genre for his short story. Various aspects of his literary activity were intermingled due to the political, social, and educational lines of the norms that were established in that time environment. In temporal frames of Edgar Allan Poe’s living years, the American political situation proved to be a critical one and, thus, the country had to win a sort of political independence from Britain through the revolution. Nevertheless, the sphere of literature preserved romanticized European patterns and traditions long after the war ended. The prolific writers of that time mostly wrote about religion, science and other societal-oriented issues in terms of making a statement without any analytical hints.

Actually, a distinct American literature did not exist until the 1820s, when the formation of the short story took place starting with an engaging, though serious, fiction style of Washington Irving. Two of his stories, “Rip Van Winkle” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”, “explored the social and cultural changes occurring in America at the time”.6 Later, in 1843 Edgar Allan Poe’s timeless short story “The Black Cat” debuted in The Saturday Evening Post that became the country’s leading magazine for fiction.6 Undoubtedly, Edgar Allan Poe had an impact on modern literature in terms of influence on European romanticism, symbolism and surrealism. Mainly, Poe was well known for his macabre vision of the fiction genres. In addition, he was also famous as a magazine editor for having stepped on toes of those whose writing did not meet his standards.

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Edgar Poe called short story a child of the American magazines. This fact seems to be obvious while taking into account the necessity of the growing at that time number of pulp magazines, for instance, Argosy, The Literary Digest, The All-Story and others, to fill their monthly or weekly pages with the short story fiction.5 The psycho biographical portrait of the writer is reflected in one of his most mystifying and horrifying tales The Black Cat. Though there was fertile ground for considering a certain biographical resemblance to be relevant, the first-person narrative is not yet a proof of the identical twins, namely the parallel lines of the hero and Poe himself. It seems to be a literary technique of narratological dynamism of the story. “The narrator’s motive for murdering his wife seems to be subconscious and, therefore, the crime is not consciously premeditated”.7 Many critics explained the wife murder through the prism of psychoanalytical framework highlighting the narrator’s “bizarre behavior”.7

Edgar was reared but never adopted by the Allans when it turned out that his biological mother had died at the young age. Besides, the genius master of the short story was put under the constant struggles with poverty, death of those whom he loved and as the result with alcohol abusing. Thus, Poe’s crisp narratives represented in a set of stories, poems and other kinds of narrative discourse are “illuminated Poe’s character and obsessions”.1

Edgar Allan Poe was born On January 19, 1809 in Boston in the family of English actress and the American, who was prone to alcohol addiction who soon abandoned their family. Thus, he was orphaned by the couple of itinerant stage performers. Edgar Allan Poe was born at a time of transatlantic peripeteia between the United States and Great Britain. Nevertheless, Poe distinguished himself being emotionally more similar to French because he, like his biological mother, was “slender, delicate, and prone to chronic illness”.4

During his years of the adolescence period, Edgar Poe’s life resembled a typical Virginian lifestyle of the youth. At that time, he got acquainted with the prominent youths in town; namely, with Robert Cabell, Robert Standard, and Robert Sully. A society, in which Edgar’s family moved, was regarded to be the privileged Richmond environment. Major James Gibbon, Thomas Taylor, Joseph Marx, and Joseph Tate occupied the highest social positions in Richmond and were John Allan’s neighbors. Richmond’s population in 1820s comprised the figure of 12 thousand of people and for little bay was fairly nice place to live. Thus, the historical evidence describes Richmond as a large pleasant village with gracious homes and picturesque views of seven admirable Richmond hills. On the contrary to this romantic part of life, there was another one, full of serious decisions, sad moments and contemplations of even worse story.

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The actor’s son, Edgar was orphaned by Allans and thus had a possibility to enter the University of Virginia in 1826, though he did not receive enough money to cover his expenses. In its natural turn, it led to the debts. Edgar’s first tries in career happened in various places and namely, in New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Richmond. While living in Baltimore, Poe stayed at his aunt’s place and had experienced love interest toward his cousin, Virginia, whom he married soon. In Richmond, he worked for The Southern Literary Messenger, a magazine. Undoubtedly, his nature served as his privilege and his burden at the same time again. Therefore, he was famous for being a “cut-throat” critic as he never crossed his principles of writing and disagreed with the rules he considered out of his norms. Soon, he was asked to leave the publication mainly because of his aggressive style of reviewing and criticizing other writing styles that were different from his the only “right” one. At that time, Poe had the problems with alcohol.

From 1838 till 1844 Edgar Allan Poe lived in Philadelphia as, at that time, it was regarded to be the literary center of the country with a plenty of publishers, editors and writers. On the arrival, Poe had an intention to get a job within a magazine that would provide him stable income. Thus, Edgar worked as a freelancer in terms of writing fiction and making reviews for a year before occupying the position of Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine editorial assistant. In the year 1840, Poe and publishers from Lea & Blanchard became partners that meant his stories gathered in two volumes and named “Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque” were published. Though the author did not receive his money, instead he was provided with a few free copies of his work, and with an enhancing literary reputation. His further attempts to publish his new collection of prose failed.8

In Philadelphia, Poe wrote other works including his second detective story that is “The Mystery of Marie Roget”, “The Black Cat”, and “The Gold-Bug”. In 1843, these stories won a prize, in The Philadelphia Dollar Newspaper. In 1843, a volume entitled “The Prose Romances of Edgar A. Poe” was issued in Philadelphia. A publisher of Sartain’s Union Magazine, John Sartain took part in publishing procedure of Poe’s “The Bells”. It happened in November, 1850. “Sartain in his book of reminiscences told how the poet revised and enlarged that dramatic piece – at least three versions having been made”.8

Philadelphia also has become a historical arena where Poe has met another brilliant writer; namely, Dickens, one of the most popular English writers who are also beloved in the USA. The meeting was caused by the sequences of Dickens’ lectures in Philadelphia. Edgar Poe sent the writer his collection of short stories in two volumes and a letter with a meeting request. Therefore, the history important meeting took place.

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On the 6th of April, in 1844 Edgar Allan Poe left Philadelphia and moved to New York. Nevertheless, Poe’s literary years in Philadelphia were very productive. Thus, approximately 30 short stories were published. Besides, Edgar was receiving positive reviews on his writings. As he changed the cities, he came out of control. Although “The Raven”, his poem published in New York, brought him literary recognition, he continued his existence in poverty being alcohol and drug abused.8

 The main part of Poe’s collection of stories “Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque” was of horrid nature, among them “The Fall of the House of Usher”, “Ligeia” and “William Wilson”. Nonetheless, the new fiction genre is considered to be implemented into the world literature heritage with “The Murders in the Rue Morgue”. In 1845, the poem “The Raven”played a sensational role in Poe’s career, and in the whole American literary tradition.

Edgar Allan Poe’s writing works were the direct reflection of his tortured inner world. The consequences of the psychological trauma that is connected with the losses he had experienced in childhood and adolescence period, e.g. mother’s death, the tumultuous relationship with his foster father, and the most painful loss of his cousin-wife who had died of consumption, provoked his genetic tendency to become an alcohol and drug addict. Certainly, Poe was considered to live a life of extremes like every artist. Moreover, his friends thought him being a happy-go-lucky. Besides short story and detective novel, Edgar was an innovator of such fiction genre as science fiction with the murder mystery content.2 Since Poe’s stories contain not many details and even if they do, these details are completely symbolic and set in the appropriate place, which represent the genius nature of the author and means the truth is readable only between the lines.

Edgar Allan Poe’s mystery was imposed onto his life. Poe’s usual five-day trip in business to New York and Philadelphia turned out to be the last disappearance that happened in 1849. His “subsequent death in a Baltimore hospital four days later on the threshold of his impending marriage to wealthy Richmond widow Elmira Shelton, has been a vexing mystery worthy of Poe’s fiction for over a century and a half”.3

The disappearance of Edgar Allan Poe was explained by several reasons, which included alcohol abuse, a certain kind of mental disorder, or “pre-election “cooping””.3 Nevertheless, none of these reasons was proved, and there were no investigations that would bring the conclusion of Poe’s death. Thus, every key marker in his final moments and any possible relationship played an important role in distinguishing at least a hint on the prospective evidence of this mystery exodus. The most researchers tend to consider his death to be caused by alcohol. In the period from 1842 till 1847, Edgar was obsessed with drinking and doping while having experienced his wife’s tuberculosis case and her death afterwards. However, medically the alcohol-based result of his death was not proved. Additionally, the lack of evidence brought no conclusion of sclerosis of the liver condition.

Kennedy offers an assumption of Poe’s suffering from alcohol abuse causing his death. He wrote in his dairy, “On Sunday last Edgar A. Poe died in town here at a hospital from the effects of a debauch… He fell in with some companion who seduced him to the bottle, which was said he renounced some time ago. The consequence was fever, delirium, and madness”.3 Thus, the supporters of the alcohol-abuse theory consider that the cause of Edgar’s death lies in the delirium from drunkenness. On the contrary, Dr. John Joseph Moran, Poe’s physician, who was attending the patient during the last four days before the artist’s death, ascertained that Edgar had not died “under the effect of an intoxicant, nor was the smell of liquor upon his breath”.6 Nevertheless, this assertion was changed after John R. Thompson’s death, the prominent lawyer in Richmond. Therefore, there was no clear conclusion even of Poe’s death as though he predicted his fate with his writings, which tend to be mysterious and totally ambiguous.

There was also a theory of Poe’s death that lied in conspiracy attraction. Thus, in this case the sample of alcohol or drug abuse was declined. However, the suspicions of this importance should produce more evidence. “Poe believed in the power of platonic intuition versus reason and logic to reveal a poetically inspired truth”.3 Ironically, the final of his own story was an instance of “a grotesquerie surpassing even the best of his own tales in mystifying his audience: literally vanishing into the arabesque labyrinth of his own worst nightmares”.3

After Poe’s death, his reputation was destroyed by his literary opponent named Rufus Griswold. Certainly, Griswold belonged to a group of people whom Poe so sharply criticized. Therefore, he had a possibility to take revenge while presenting the genius writer as a carrier of a set of mental disorders caused by psychological trauma and alcohol abuse. Besides, Rufus Griswold was the first who wrote the biographical issue concerning Poe’s life.

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