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Edgar Allan Poe: Too Short a Story

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Originally Greek aphorism in its Latin translation “ars longa, vita brevis” is viewed as a vivid representation of Edgar Allan Poe’s life path. The legendary figure of the critic, editor and writer during his short 40 years has become the father of the detective and, to some extent, mystery genre for his short story. Therefore, the relevant fact lies in an assumption of the controversial parallels that might be driven between the short story proper and the short life story of the innovator of this genre in literature.

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” (Nilsson, 2011). 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 (Nilsson, 2011). 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 gave a short story the definition of the child of the American magazine. 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 (Lane, 2001). Turning back to the author’s creations, the relation between short story itself and the short life, is proved by the evidential psycho biographical portrait of the writer 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 from the literary perspective, namely the parallel lines of the hero and Poe. 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” (Piacentino, 1998). Many critics explained the wife murder through the prism of psychoanalytical framework highlighting the narrator’s “bizarre behavior” (Piacentino, 1998).

Poe is considered to be an ideal subject for those novelists who are interested in mysteries. Edgar was reared but never adopted by the Allans when it turned out that his biological mother had died at the young age. He was surrounded by love and trust; nonetheless his schemata of the world did not coincide with those of family warmth and he, by the evidences of his friends, was a vivid example of a person preserving incapacity for happiness. 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 drinking. Thus, Poe’s crisp narratives are driven from his particular biographical issues and a set of his stories, poems and other kinds of narrative discourse, which are “illuminated Poe’s character and obsessions” (Chrichton-Miller, 2008).

Within the frames of Poe’s short life, it seems to be logical to start with the very beginning of his personality creation process. 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” (Kennedy, 2001).

Father of the detective story genre captured the readers’ imagination around the world. Since Poe’s stories contained 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 mean the truth is readable only between the lines. 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 of carrier 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, Edgar Poe was already accused of his obsession with alcohol.

After these incidents, Poe started his writing carrier having published his collection of stories Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque. The main part of the stories 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 carrier, 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 in 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 (Dibble, 2010).

Edgar Allan Poe’s innovations were put in the basis of literature canons and now are viewed as famous in literary circles. Actually, his short stories deal with the basic topics that include natural issues and namely, beautiful women, fears, deaths, and other aspects of the ordinary person’s psychological labyrinths. Besides, the lack of detail helps to create the psychological picture of the story more easily, mainly using the strength of associations.

Like any other story, whether it tends to be short or long, each has its ending concerning the code of initiation within a certain type of narrative that gives a hint on a happy, drastic or open ending. As is a “tale”, so is a life, 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” (Hopkins, 2007).

Edgar Allan Poe was keenly aware of the reader’s psychology and implemented hoax or mystifying elements. Ironically, the last chapter of Poe’s own life, rivals “The Mystery of Marie Roget” with its accretion of implausible truths, credible lies, and alternate texts. Poe’s mysterious disappearance and death contain within it every element of both grand hoax and mythic cautionary tale (Hopkins, 2007).

The disappearance of the short story writer was explained by several reasons, which include alcohol abuse, a certain kind of mental disorder, or “pre-election “cooping”” (Hopkins, 2007). 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 researches tend to consider his death to be caused by alcohol. In the period from 1842 till 1847 Edgar was obsessed in 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” (Hopkins, 2007). 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” (Hopkins, 2007). 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” (Hopkins, 2007). 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” (Hopkins, 2007). Though, the villain of his own drama remained mysterious, the eternal motifs of love and jealousy, human pride and envy for money and wellness, and madness caused by the malice predisposition, cause a crucial effect on the person’s psyche.

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