Fear, Insanity, Depression: is it all about Poe’s writing, or about the author himself?
The biography of Edgar Allan Poe is as full of mysteries and horror, exactly the same with his short stories. Are the words “fear,” “depression,” and “mystery” more applicable to Poe’s writing, or Poe’s personality? Was Poe’s life any different from his dark and fearful stories?
Let’s first take a look at his original literary works. Poe was one of the first American writers, who practiced writing short stories on a regular basis, and is considered the inventor of the detective fiction genre.
It would be a mistake to think that he wrote only in this genre, since Poe’s legacy includes poems, love stories, and even small comedies. “Edgar Allan Poe deserves to be recognized as one of the most original, imaginative, and ingenious authors of our society” (Giordano, 2013). “He is further credited with contributing to the emerging genre of science fiction” (Stableford, 2003). Needless to say that a lot of his stories were saturated with murder, revenge, torture, depression, and insanity.
Can a writer be any different from his work? Isn’t the tree known by its fruit? What can we see in Poe’s life, judging by his stories? Poe’s destiny was contradictory from the very first day of his life. His father abandoned the family, and Edgar’s mother died when he was only two, thus making his childhood unhappy. But a rich merchant named John Allan adopted the boy. Poe seemed to have had these brightest perspectives: he entered a good university, but then ruined this future with his own hands, going into gambling debts. Allan refused to pay out his debts, and Edgar recklessly joined the army, unable to sustain himself in any other way, making more and more of the wrong choices, and thus moving further and further along a dangerous and slippery path. The death of his wife became a very difficult trial for him, and it took him a lot of time to recover from this devastating blow of destiny. He became addicted to alcohol, and from time to time would get totally lost in periods of severe drinking.
If someone were to write a horror story about Poe, I believe, his death would become a great plot. The writer’s death occurred under mysterious circumstances, and its details entice and tease the researchers of Poe’s life even today. After a long period of misfortune, Edgar Poe somehow managed to collect a great sum of money for his magazine subscription, and took a train from Richmond to Baltimore. What he was doing for the next four days is little known about, and the accounts of different people are very uncertain and vague. All we know is that five days later he was found in a hospital of Baltimore – delirious, blacking out repeatedly, and with no money left. Four days later he died. “All medical records, including his death certificate, have been lost” (Bramsback, 1970).
So, after this short research, we can say that Edgar Allan Poe’s life was full of tragedy, fear, and misfortunes, which led him to alcohol addiction. On the other hand, his difficult life circumstances, multiplied by his talent, fueled the incredible masterpieces he created. A writer with a different destiny wouldn’t write such stories. And the words which characterize Poe’s stories – fear, insanity, depression – should be said not just about his stories, but about Poe himself.
Giordano, R. (2013). Poestories.com. Welcome to Poestories.com. Retrieved from http://www.poestories.com
Stableford, B. (2003). Science fiction before the genre. In James, Edward; Mendlesohn, Farah. The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 15–31. ISBN 978-0-521-01657-5.
Bramsback, Birgit (1970). The final illness and death of Edgar Allan Poe: an attempt at reassessment. Studia Neophilogica (University of Uppsala) XLII: 40. Doi10.1080/00393277008587456.
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