Edgar Allan Poe


Many authors have made great contributions to the world of 
literature. Mark Twain introduced Americans to life on the 
Mississippi. Thomas Hardy wrote on his pessimistic views of the 
Victorian Age. Another author that influenced literature is Edgar 
Allan Poe. Poe is known as the father of the American short story and 
father of the detective story. To understand the literary 
contributions of Edgar Allan Poe, one must look at his early life, his 
literary life, and a summary of two of his famous works.

 "Edgar Allan Poe was born in Boston'' (Inglis 505) "on 
January 19, 1809'' (Asselineau 409). He was born to a southern family 
that were in a traveling company of actors (Inglis 505). His father, 
David Poe, was from a Baltimore family. He was an actor by profession 
and a heavy drinker. Soon after Edgar Allan Poe was born, he left his 
family. Poe's mother, Elizabeth Arnold Poe, was a widow at the age of 
eighteen. Two years after his birth, she died of tuberculosis 
(Asselineau 409). When his mother died, Poe was adopted by John Allan 
(Perry XI) at the urging of Mr. Allan's wife. In 1815, John Allan 
moved his family to England. While there, Poe was sent to private 
schools (Asselineau 410).

 In the spring of 1826, Poe entered the University of 
Virginia. There he studied Spanish, French, Italian, and Latin. He 
had an excellent scholastic record. He got into difficulties almost 
at once. Mr. Allan did not provide him with the money to pay for his 
fees and other necessities. Poe was confused and homesick. He 
learned to play cards and started drinking. Soon he was in debt in 
excess of two thousand dollars. Poe discovered that he could not 
depend upon Allan for financial support. His foster father refused to 
pay his debts, and Poe had to withdraw from the University (Asselineau 

 In May of 1827, Poe enlisted in the army as a common soldier. 
He did this under the name of Edgar A. Perry. He was stationed on 
Sullivan's Island in Charleston Harbor for over a year. Poe adapted 
very well to military discipline and quickly rose to the rank of 
regimental sergeant major. After a while, he got tired of the same 
daily routine involved in military life. Poe wrote regularly to Mr. 
Allan. He met with Mr. Allan after the death of Mrs. Allan in 
February of 1829. With Allan's support, he received his discharge and 
enlisted in West Point on July 1, l830 (Asselineau 410). While at 
West Point, Mr. Allan, who had remarried, continued in not providing
Poe with enough money. Poe decided to have himself kicked out of 
school. Cutting classes and disregarding orders were his solutions. 
He was court-martialed for neglect of duties in January, 1831, and 
left West Point the following month (Asselineau 411). 
 "Poe was great in three different fields , and in each one he 
made a reputation that would give any man a high place in literary 
history. Poe wrote great short stories, famous not only in his
own country, but all over the world (Robinson V)." "Hawthorne, 
Irving, Balzac, Bierce, Crane, Hemingway and other writers have given 
us memorable short stories; but none has produced so great a number of 
famous and unforgettable examples, so many tales that continue, 
despite changing standards to be read and reprinted again and again 
throughout the world (Targ VII)." "Poe was the father of the modern 
short story, and the modern detective story (Targ VII)." "With
the possible exception of Guy de Maupassant, no other writer is so 
universally known and esteemed for so large of a corpus of excellent 
tales as in Edgar Allan Poe (Targ VII)."
 In 1831, Poe succeeded in publishing a new edition of his 
poems entitled, Poems. Poe was now in great difficulty. He went to 
New York, but could find no job there. Eventually he took refuge with 
his aunt, Mrs. Clemm, in Baltimore. There he decided to seek 
employment and make his living by writing. Failing to get attention 
with his poems, he decided to start writing short stories. Poe 
competed in a contest for the best short story in 1831. The prize was 
offered by Phil-Saturday Courier. Because he did not win the prize, 
Poe started on an ambitious project. He decided to plan a series of 
tales told by members of a literary group. He found no publisher for
his stories, and entered the contest again in June of 1835. This time 
he sent one poem and six stories (Asselineau 411). His story, "Ms. 
Found in a Bottle," won , and he received one hundred dollars for it 
(Targ IX). Through the influence of one of the judges, John P. 
Kennedy, Poe became employed as an editor of the Southern Literary 
Messenger, published in Richmond (Asselineau 411). Under Poe's 
editorship, the Messenger 's circulation rose from 500 to 3500. 
While in Richmond, Poe married his cousin, Virginia, who was not quite 
fourteen years old. Poe was fired from the Messenger in January of 

 Poe then went to New York, where he was unsuccessful. In the 
summer of 1838, he moved to Philadelphia. While in Philadelphia, he 
worked as the editor of both Burton's Gentleman's Magazine and 
Graham's Magazine (Asselineau 412). Even though he won a one
hundred dollar prize for "The Gold Bug" (Robinson VI), he moved to New 
York. Poe found a job in New York as an assistant editor for the 
Evening Mirror. This was where "The Raven" first appeared on January 
29, 1845. "The poem immediately caught the imagination of the public 
and was reprinted all over the country and even abroad in all kinds of 
newspapers and magazines, but Poe pocketed only a few dollars for his 
poems (Asselineau 413)." The year of 1845 was a lucky year for Poe. 
He published a collection of his Tales and an edition of his poems 
named The Raven and Other Poems . He also became the editor of the 
weekly Broadway Journal. Poe broke down when Virginia died in January 
of 1848 ( Asselineau 413). In 1849, Poe died in Baltimore (Targ IX). 
 "Instead of really living, he took refuge from the physical world in 
the private world of his dreams-in other words-in the world of his 
tales (Asselineau 413)."
 In the "Masque of the Red Death", Poe uses his imagination 
throughout the story (Rogers 43). A plague has devastated the entire 
country. It takes only half an hour tofor the course of the disease 
to run. At first one feels sharp pains and dizziness. Then one 
starts bleeding at the pores. The disease results in death. Prince 
Prospero has ordered one thousand lords and ladies to the deep 
seclusion of one of his abbeys. The building was built by the Prince 
and is filled with his exotic ornaments. It is sealed from the 
outside world by a huge wall with iron gates. Inside the building are 
dancers, musicians, and everything they need in order to stay secluded 
until the plague runs its course. After six months of seclusion, the 
Prince decides to hold a masked ball. The ball is held in a suite 
with seven rooms. Each room is decorated in a single color. The last 
room is decorated in red. Within this room stands a huge clock that 
strikes the hour with a heavy clang. The rooms are very crowded for 
the ball. At the stroke of midnight, a guest is seen in a costume
of the red death itself and This frightens the other guests. The 
Prince is angered at what he believes to be a practical joke. He 
orders the stranger seized and hanged from the battlements. Prince 
Prospero follows the stranger into the red chamber. It is there that 
Prince Prospero falls dead at the feet of the stranger. The others 
capture the unknown person in the costume. To their horror they find 
there is no living form in the costume. One by one they die until no 
one else remains. Death is king of all (Rogers 41).
 "The horror abysmal darkness, and absolute helplessness 
befalling the victims are described with vivid accuracy in tales such 
as 'The Fall of the House of Usher,' 'The Cask of Amontillado,' and 
'The Premature Burial' (Perry XI-XII)." In "The Fall of the House of 
Usher," the narrator visits his insane friend, Roderick Usher. 
Usher's house is huge and gloomy (Rogers 20). His twin sister, 
Madeline, gets sick and dies. The narrator and Usher place her in a 
tomb in the basement of Usher's house. What they do not realize is 
that she is still barely alive. Usher keeps on hearing sounds over 
the next couple of days. The seventh day after Madeline's death, a
bad storm appears. The narrator and Usher open the door of the 
narrator's room and Madeline falls on Usher . They both die. The 
narrator then leaves the house. As he rides away, the house collapses 
to the floor (Rogers 21).


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