Edgar Allan Poe was born at 33 Hollis Street, Boston, Massachusetts, on January 19, 1809. Poe’s parents were struggling actors. His father deserted him, and his mother died of tuberculosis when he was three years old. Young Edgar was taken in by a wealthy tobacco exporter by the name of John Allan, from whom he took his middle name. Most of his early life was lived in Richmond, Virginia, with the exception of a five-year period when the Allan family lived in England. His life in England was described as rather uneventful. Poe, even in his early years, had a proficiency for writing poetry.
When he moved back to Virginia, Poe grew attached to young girl in his neighborhood named Sarah Royster. They frequently visited, where they sang songs and drew pictures. They were secretly engaged at the time, although their intentions were not made known to the adults of either household (Allen 9). His mid-life began when Poe entered the University of Virginia in 1926. He withdrew less than a year later. Initially, his grades were brilliant, but soon thereafter they began to deteriorate. It is reported that Poe gambled heavily and owed large sums of money to various shopkeepers (Benet 34).
He also began drinking quite heavily. Mr. Allan refused to pay Poe’s debts. He also broke off Poe’s engagement to Sarah Royster. Without any visible means to support himself, Poe left for Boston. In the spring of 1827, he arrived penniless and enlisted in the army under the name of Edgar A. Perry. In 1829, he was promoted to the rank of sergeant major. At his own request, was honorably discharged in April of 1829 (Gullete 5). Temporarily reconciled, Mr. Allan secured Poe an appointment to West Point. But still refused financial support.
After six months, Poe purposely got himself discharged from West Point, by purposely neglecting his military duties and for disobedience of orders (Encarta [CD-ROM]). Poe then moved to New York, and with the help of some money raised by his West Point friends, he published his first poems in 1831. Poe next took up residence in Baltimore, with his widowed aunt, Maria Clemm, and her daughter, Virginia. He turned to fiction as a way to support himself. The Philadelphia Saturday Corrier published five of Poe’s stories. In 1883, one of his pieces won a fifty-dollar prize given by the Baltimore Sunday advisor (Regan 2,3).
In 1836, Poe married his cousin Virginia Clemm, who was not yet 14 years old. Because of her young age and her relationship to Poe, this made him the subject of much criticism and psychological speculation (Abbey-Cormier 1641). During the next few years, Poe bounced from Philadelphia to New York holding various editor positions. It was during this time that he wrote many of his most famous works. The year 1846 marked the beginning of Poe’s decline. He was involved in personal scandals with two female literary “groupies”. When Virginia Poe died in 1947, Poe collapsed. He was found unconscious on a Baltimore street in 1949.
A brief obituary reported that Poe had died of “congestion of the brain” (Regan 3). Poe’s turbulent childhood, troubled mid-life, unusual relationships, and hardships were reflected in his various works. The student in Poe’s most famous poem, The Raven, displays similar attitudes that Poe displayed during his life. The plot in The Raven is a rather simple one. A young student is found weeping over his beloved deceased mistress. He suddenly hears a tapping at the window. He finds it is a raven that he figures is looking for shelter from the rainy storm taking place outside.
He learns that the raven can only speak one word, “nevermore”. The student knows that is all the raven can say, but yet he continues to ask it questions that will receive a negative answer. The young man only gets the response, nevermore. Poe’s poem demonstrates that he believes humans have an intimate need for self-torture. It is a reflective story of a man seeking self-torture (Abbey-Cormier 1643). Poe’s own life mirrored his desire for self-torture. Throughout Poe’s life he was anguished. It is also evident that he brought most of this anguish upon himself.
For example, he initially made excellent grades, but due to his gambling and drinking problems, he was forced to withdraw from college. Poe found happiness in marrying Virginia Clemm. However, he was ridiculed, because the girl was related to him, and she was under the age of fourteen. Other examples of this behavior were evident in Poe’s military life. He was promoted to a sergeant major, but then voluntarily chose to be discharged. He then left and went to West Point. However, he neglected his duties and he discharged from West Point. Poe’s publishing career also had parallels to the student in The Raven.
He was successful as an editor, but was fired for having an affair with female employees. Furthermore, just as the student couldn’t find happiness after his beloved one died, Poe never recovered from the death of his wife. He ultimately ended up penniless and unconscious on the streets of Baltimore. He died the next day. The Tell-Tale Heart is one of Poe’s short stories that reinforced the destructive attitude that was discussed above. This particular short story is about a crazed man who lives with an old man and ends up killing him. The crazed man is the narrator of the story.
The narrator claims he loved the old man, and that he did not want his gold, and the old man did not abuse him or insult him in any way. Instead, he claimed it was the old man’s eye that drove him to the crime. He said when the old man looked at him his “blood ran cold”. As he plotted the murder, the crazed man felt he had many habits that were the same as the old man. In fact, he claimed he “knew what the old man felt (Benet 34). ” In reality, the narrator saw himself in the old man. He does not want to turn out like the old man. Therefoe, by killing the old man, the crazed man kills himself.
As the examples listed above illustrate, Poe’s life was based on self-destruction. The Cask of Amontillado is a story based on revenge and irony. The Cask of Amontillado takes place at a carnival. A man named Montresor plans to kill a man named Fortunado, because of Fortunado’s insulted his family. In the story, Montresor stresses there are two criteria needed for a successful revenge. First, the avenger must be punished without being punished in return. Also, the avenger must make himself known to the one who has done him wrong (Gullete 9). Montresor entices Fortunado to a wine cellar to execute him.
Throughout the story, Montresor uses irony while leading Fortunado to his execution. For example, Fortunado says he will not die of a cough, Montresor knowingly replies “True, True (Abbey-Cormier 1648). ” It seemed during Poe’s life Poe was seeking revenge on John Allan. Mr. Allan, a wealthy man, got Edgar into The University of Virginia, but refused to pay his debts. Poe responded by dropping out of school. After reconciling, Allan got Poe into West Point. When Allan cut off funds and dissolved his engagement, Poe again dropped out and moved to Boston. There were many ironic moments in Poe’s life.
The biggest irony was around his death. He was a renowned author and poet, but died of unknown causes on the streets of Baltimore. Poe’s death was not a major story (Gullette 42). Poe’s turbulent childhood, troubled mid-life, unusual relationships, and hardships were reflected in his various works. Edgar Allan Poe is a famous author for his spine-tingling stories of horror and mystery. However, Poe’s biggest achievement was helping establish what America now knows as a short story form of writing. Poe always said that every single detail in a story should contribute to the story. Words must not be wasted. Poe’s life was short.
He died at the age of forty. He did not appear to waste a moment of his life. He moved from Boston, to Philadelphia, to New York, and to Richmond in the early 1800’s. He even spent five years in London, England. All of these experiences shape his odd life. All of his experiences in his lifetime, including the bad memories, reflected how he wrote his literature. The reader had to understand every aspect of his life to better understand his stories and poems. His writings have been teachings and inspirations for the authors today. Poe is one of the most famous authors in today’s world because of his odd tales, and his eerie life.