In the current essay I would like to consider two works of Edgar Allan Poe: “The cask of amontillado” and “The fall of the house of Usher”, as well as examine the life context of the writer’s chosen style. To begin with, it should be noted that Edgar Allan Poe (1809 – 1849) – is American writer, poet, literary critic and editor. As a fact, Poe is one of the first American writers, who created his works in the form of short stories, and is considered as the creator of detective-fiction genre in literature. THESIS: In my opinion, many of Poe’s works imbued with the spirit of nervousness, extend up to the madness. That is why in his works Po often described the problem of overcoming death, because for him, the death – is a manifestation of the supernatural.
Edgar Allan Poe was born on January 19, 1809 in Boston. His parents were actors of wandering troupe and died when Edgar was only two years old. The boy was adopted by wealthy merchant John Allan from Virginia. It should be noted that from childhood the nature of the poet was rough, passionate and impulsive. His behavior was observed with many strange things. From an early age Edgar wrote poetry and was fond of fantastic plans, he loved to make psychological experiments on himself and others. It can be said that Po was conscious of his superiority among others and he gave the others this feeling. However, life in wealth was over for Edgar when he was 17. He spent only one year in college. In autumn 1826 there was a gap between John Allan and his adopted son. For Edgar Allan Poe began a wandering life. Without a shelter, he decided on a steep pitch – and entered U.S. army as a soldier under an assumed name. As a fact, Poe carried out service about a year; he was on a good rank and even received the rank of sergeant-major. In early 1828, the poet, however, has not sustained with his position and turned to his adoptive father, asking for help, and probably expressed remorse. After he received freedom, Edgar Poe once again turned to poetry. He went to Baltimore and met there his relatives: sister, grandmother, uncle George and his son, Nelson Poe.
Meanwhile, John Allan insisted that Edgar had to complete his education. It was decided that he entered the West Point Military Academy. Edgar reluctantly went to the academy. It was not any possibility to leave the Academy and Poe, with his usual zeal, managed to achieve his goal and was expelled in March 1831. By this step, the young poet newly regained freedom, but, of course, once again broke up with John Allan, as stated in Edgar Allan Poe, 1809-1849.
It should be mentioned that several major trials have strongly influenced the outlook of the writer during his life. First of all, almost all his life Poe was very poor. Also, his wife, Virginia was sick with tuberculosis, after the singing burst a blood vessel and died. Moreover, in 1846 New York magazine “Broadway Journal” was closed and Poe lost the job and the opportunity to earn a living. The last years of Poe’s life, 1847-1849 were years of agonizing, almost madness, success, falls and constant slander. Edgar Poe was fascinated by women, imagined that he was in love, even discussed marriage. In life, he behaved strangely, but managed to publish several genius works. Unfortunately, the seizures of Poe’s alcoholism became more painful, nervousness increased to almost a mental disorder. Full of chimerical projects, believing himself a fiancé again, Edgar Poe in 1849 with great success gave a lecture on “Poetic Principle” in Richmond. From Richmond Poe left with $ 1500 in his pocket. What happened next remains a mystery. Perhaps, the poet was influenced by his illness, perhaps, the robbers attacked him. In any case, Edgar Allan Poe was found unconscious and robbed. He was brought to Baltimore, where died in hospital on October 7, 1849, as stated in Edgar Allan Poe biography.
As a fact, “The fall of the house of Usher” is very interesting story in which Poe describes the ancient, dark, full of some special oppressive atmosphere of the castle, where lives Roderick Usher – the last owner of the castle. With a morbidly nervous susceptibility Roderick hears how his buried alive sister tries to escape from a coffin, but he can not help her, because he has manic “fear” of horror. After the sister appears in a bloody shroud, horror kills her brother, they both die, and Usher castle falls, destroyed by a storm, as stated in The Fall of the House of Usher. It should be noted that in this story, Roderick is a nervous, morbidly sensitive viewer, who loves rare books, a recluse and afraid the life. As a fact, Poe’s heroes are in the power of rock, their destiny and their death is predetermined. Moreover, they are weak; they have no power to fight for live, which is perceived as a nightmare and evil. Each of Poe’s heroes is the victim of some obsession, they are not real people with real feelings and passions, they are abstract shapes. Moreover, from the first line of the poem, all the elements of style – composition, choice of words, the logic of the narrative are designed to achieve specific, pre-calculated effect, striking the reader into the story climax. That is why Poe chooses such terrible things as premature burial, immurement live and so on. I am convinced that supernatural, according to the Poe, is a rationally chosen path to achieve the effect. In turn, by effects is determined the conventional image of the characters, who corresponds to the conventional realism of his wild and desolate landscapes.
It should be mentioned that the story “The cask of amontillado” is told from first-person. The narrator tells the story of his deadly revenge to his friend, who allegedly humiliated him. Revenge lies in the immurement in the wall. The riddle of the story is that the motive of the murder remains unknown to the reader. Thus, all “detective” parts are left to him, and the reader is free to think about the background of killing. Although, Montresor did not disclose the reasons of his deed, he mentions “thousands of humiliation”, which he allegedly suffered from Fortunato, as stated in The Cask of Amontillado. It seems that on the basis of this strange explanation can be concluded that Montresor is probably crazy, but this version raises questions, because Montresor’s actions are very cunning and calculating. As a matter of fact, by this story Edgar Poe answered to his opponent, Thomas Dunn English. The conflict between them began with the fact that English ridiculed Poe in his essays. Then in January 1846 there was a scuffle with assault and battery, after which their feud moved to the pages of magazines. After that there were several part-time encounters, mainly around literary caricatures of one another. Once English went too far, and in 1846 Poe managed to attract a publisher of The New York Mirror for libel. English answered with the publication of “1844”, which plot was built on the idea of revenge. The story was vague and confusing, included a secret society theme. In this story the main character – twin of Edgar Poe – is a drunkard, a liar and a home tyrant. In turn, Poe published “The cask of amontillado”, which is full of recognizable references to the English’s novel. For example, Fortunato demonstrates his involvement in the Masonic Lodge, or at least awareness of its activities in “1844”. Also, Poe described the similar gesture from “1844” (the signal of danger). Moreover, English mentions a sign – a falcon, holding a serpent in its claws. In turn, the emblem of Montresor is leg, which occurs on a snake that drives a tooth in its heel. It can be said that most of the scenes in the Montresor’s catacombs repeats the scenes in the basement of “1844”. As a result, it was Edgar Allan Poe, “paid with impunity” to his opponent and wrote a short story even not requesting a fee for its publication. However, in spite of the local literary victory, a division of English had a devastating effect on the Poe’s reputation, because many of his weaknesses and vices became public, as stated in The Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore.
To sum it up I would like to say that in my opinion, many of Poe’s works imbued with the spirit of nervousness, extend up to the madness. That is why in his works Po often described the problem of overcoming death, because for him, the death – is a manifestation of the supernatural. Without any doubts, Edgar Poe stayed in the history of poetry as an artist, who considered the most superficial idea that genius is incompatible with the skill, takes hard work and quite deliberate, with the result that the most subtle experience, the most subtle nuance of thought are available verbal embodiment, based on accurate calculations. Poe’s inspired mathematics pushed away his literary contemporaries, they noticed only the geometry but not the true sense of poetry, which would give the product a high sense of completeness.
Edgar Allan Poe biography. 2011. 12 October 2011. <http://www.biography.com/people/edgar-allan-poe-9443160>
Edgar Allan Poe, 1809-1849. 2010. 12 October 2011. <http://docsouth.unc.edu/southlit/poe/bio.html>
Edgar Allan Poe (1839). The Fall of the House of Usher. 12 October 2011. <http://classiclit.about.com/library/bl-etexts/eapoe/bl-eapoe-fall.htm>
Edgar Allan Poe (1846). The Cask of Amontillado. 12 October 2011. <http://www.pagebypagebooks.com/Edgar_Allan_Poe/The_Cask_of_Amontillado/The_Cask_of_Amontillado_p1.html>
The Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore. 2011. 12 October 2011. <http://www.eapoe.org/>