Edger Allen Poe is a well known American writer, poet, literary critic and editor, he is a representative of American Romanticism. Poe was one of the first American writers who created their works in the form of short stories, and is considered the creator of detective fiction genre in literature. His work contributed to the emergence of the genre of science fiction.
Destiny of Edgar Allan Poe as a writer (1809-1849) was unusual: unappreciated at home, almost completely forgotten soon after his early death, he was appreciated in Europe, and only after that, later, triumph has begun to attract the attention of his fellow citizens. The result of that is a diverse views and assessment of creative work of Edgar Allan Poe, a large number of disputes and contradictory rumors about his name.
Life of Edgar Allan Poe
Edgar Allan Poe was born on January 19, 1809 in Boston, USA. His parents, Elizabeth and David Poe, were actors in a wandering troupe, but they died when Edgar was only two years. The boy was adopted by a wealthy merchant from Virginia, John Allan. (Hutchisson 2005)
Edgar childhood passed in a rather rich environment, as family did not spare money for his education. Although sometimes they were in unsuccessful situation, they are even were facing bankruptcy, the boy did not feel it: he was dressed “like a prince”, he had his own horse, his dog, his groom. When Edgar was six years old, Allan went to England, where sent the boy to an expensive boarding house in London where he studied for five years. Upon his return to the United States in, 1820 Edgar went to college in Richmond, which he finished in 1826. Edgar was sent to finish his education at the University of Richmond, that had just been founded. (Meyers 1992)
Edgar at the age of five year already could read, draw, write, recite, rode. At school he easily studied science, got a large stock of knowledge in literature, especially English and Latin, on general history, mathematics, in some branches of natural science, as astronomy and physics. From early ages Edgar wrote poems, enjoyed fantastic stories. Edgar was a physically strong, the character of the poet from his childhood was rough, passionate, impetuous, there were a lot of strange things his behavior.
Wealthy life was over for Edgar when he was 17 years. In college, he spent only one year, and in autumn 1826 there was an argument between the J. Allan and his adopted son. The reason for the quarrel was that Allan refused to pay Edgar’s gambling debts. The young man thought they were “debts of honor” and did not see any other decision as only to leave his rich house. Poe began wandering life after leaving the house, he went to his native Boston, where he printed collection of poems, but it was not released to the public. This publication probably took all the savings of the boys, so he decided on a strange decision: he became a soldier in the army under an assumed name. He spent there about a year and even received the rank of Sergeant Major. (Hutchisson 2005)
Having got freedom, Edgar Allan Poe once again turned to poetry. Later in the 1830-s from Poe moved to New York, where he hastened to publish another collection of poems, entitled “Second Edition: Poems by Edgar A. Poe”. But again it was unsuccessful, as there were no buyers of the book, priced at two and a half dollar. Being very poor, in 1831 he had to turn to his adoptive father for money. He gave Edgar cash benefits, but they were negligible. From autumn 1831 to autumn 1833 was the most difficult period for the Edgar Allan Poe, and by the end of this period, he came to extreme poverty.
In 1836 Edgar Poe married Virginia who was only 13 (he was 27). There is no doubt that during next years the young poet worked hard, he wrote a series of short stories – the best in the early period of his career. In the period from 1833 to 1840 years, the author wrote a lot of poems and short stories, worked in magazines. In 1841-1843 he lived with his family in a suburb of Philadelphia, but since 1846 the poet again had miserable life. (Meyers 1992)
The last years of life of Edgar Allan Poe, 1847-1849, were the years of agonizing, high success and bitter failures, and constant slander of enemies. His wife Virginia died, and Poe began to behave strangely, suffered from alcoholism, his nervousness increased almost to insanity. Edgar Allan Poe died in hospital on Oct. 7, 1849. (Hutchisson 2005)
Literary works of Edgar Allan Poe
The literary work of Edgar Allan Poe was influenced by romanticism, especially by English and German Romantics, and Hoffman (as Poe was interested in German idealist philosophy and literature). Hoffman’s words: “Life is crazy nightmare that haunts us until such time until the cast finally into the arms of death” express a basic idea of “scary stories” by Poe. This idea, together with a unique style of expression, was already seen in the first works of the poet, and only deepened in his future masterpieces.
His theoretical views Edgar Poe presented in articles “The Philosophy of the situation”(1840), “The Philosophy of Creativity”(1846),”Poetic Principle”(1850), notes “Marginalia”(1844), numerous reviews. Like all romantics, his views came from the opposing repulsive and brutal reality and the romantic ideal of beauty. Striving for this ideal, in the opinion of the writer, was in human nature. He was the first in the literature to realize the emotional power of speech and sought to build his works to achieve the greatest impact on the reader. This is the most striking feature of the romanticism of Poe. (Meyers 1992)
Poetry reveals the ideals of beauty that were created in the imagination of the poet. For example, the verse “The Raven” in which the reader along with the lyrical hero is experiencing great and tragic emotions. The central image is the symbol of the poem – Raven. The dynamics, development of the plot is movement from past to present, it is also a movement in a mood of emotional intensity – from sadness to the hopeless darkness of despair. And this movement is creating a character. A characteristic feature of the image-symbol of opposition by a beautiful past, associated with the deceased loved one, this hideous in the image of a black bird. And the past is represented as an ideal, which have always incarnated by the image of a beautiful woman (in this case of Lenore).
The poem is constructed as a kind of lyrical dialogue with Raven. Symbolists loved to clothe the characters and to emphasize the different sounds, rustling, a premonition. The atmosphere at the beginning of the poem contributes to the appearance of something extraordinary:
«Ah, distinctly I remember
it was in the bleak December;
And each separate dying ember
wrought its ghost upon the floor». (Poe 2002)
Poe gradually pumps emotional stress, uncertainty, intensify of emotions of the hero. But soon a situation became clear:
«Open here I flung the shutter,
when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately
Raven of the saintly days of yore;
Not the least obeisance made he;
not a minute stopped or stayed he …” (Poe 2002)
However, the emotional stress of not only not diminished, by contrast, increases. The resolution of the situation is even more tense and unexpected.
World of symbols in the poetry of Edgar Allan Poe is infinitely rich and varied. The first and main source of os symbols is the nature, and his poems are filled with symbolism of colors, sounds, smells. From the pen of the poet symbolic meaning get the sun, moon, stars, seas, lakes, forests, day, night, seasons, etc. So in the poem “The Raven” bird is a symbol.
Even brighter the originality of romanticism of the American writer was shown in his prose works. Poe gave preference to novels and short stories. In prose he raised the problem of clash of human consciousness with the reality.
Cornelius K. “Biography of Edgar Allan Poe”. Bloom’s BioCritiques: Edgar Allan Poe. Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers, 2002. p. 13
Hutchisson James M. Poe. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2005.
Meyers, J. Edgar Allan Poe: His Life and Legacy. New York: Cooper Square Press, 1992.
Peeples, S. Edgar Allan Poe Revisited. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1998.
Poe Edgar A. Edgar Allan Poe: Complete Tales & Poems. Edison, NJ: Castle Books, 2002.