Everybody loves a good horror story. Millions of dollars are earned each year by books and films sold in this genre. Horror movies are always available in the movie theaters, and usually more than one is playing at a time. Many sleepovers and camping trips are not considered complete until a scary story is told at night. People love the fear, alarm, and unease they feel while experiencing a horror story. Scary stories have been an important part of entertainment in America for a long time, but where did the horror story in American literature originate? The man who can be credited with bringing horror stories to American fiction is Edgar Allan Poe. Poe also created the detective story and gave American literature some of its most popular and enduring works. Poe is definitely one of America’s greatest authors.
First of all, Poe made horror fiction a part of American literature. Even in his lifetime, Poe was recognized for his skill in crafting horror tales. James Russell Lowell wrote a positive review of Poe and his works for Graham’s Magazine in 1845. In the article, Lowell notes that “Mr. Poe has chosen to exhibit his power chiefly in that dim region which stretches from the very utmost limits of the probable into the weird confines of superstition and unreality.” He goes on to write about Poe’s success in “raising images of horror.” It is true that the people of Poe’s day were fascinated by his tales, which were published magazines and later collected into Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque, a very appropriate name.
Poe’s horror stories have continued to be popular. Diane Cole says, “His work haunts us forevermore.” His stories are widely read, and many have been made into horror films. Cole explains the “hold on the imagination” that Poe’s stories have:
One way that to measure the claustrophobic spell they still hold on the imagination
is the response that bestselling crime novelist Michael Connelly received when he
invited fellow writers to contribute essays about their favorite Poe tales to the
Mystery Writers of America anthology, In the Shadow of the Master. “So many
people wanted to write about the movies that I had to say, ‘No more!’” This fact shows that Poe has had a big impact on many modern day writers. His stories paved the way for writers like Stephen King, who is a very popular modern horror writer.
Another one of Poe’s influences is that he wrote the original detective story. Even though he had sources that influenced his writing of these stories, he is given credit as “the creator of the detective story” (May). Poe gets this credit not necessarily because he was the first but because he shaped this type of writing. One source notes that “what is important about Poe’s discovery of the detective story . . . is that, after Poe . . ., the detective story [was] never lost again” (Deloche and Oguer). He created a genre in which everything, even the smallest detail, can help to solve the main mystery of the story (May). His influence is so strong on writers of mysteries today that the group Mystery Writers of America calls its most significant award, best mystery novel of the year, the “Edgar” (Cole).
The character Poe used in his stories is a detective named C. Auguste Dupin. The Dupin mysteries helped influence other writers. One of literature’s greatest detectives, Sherlock Holmes, is patterned after Dupin. Richard Kopley says that “…without Poe, Sherlock Holmes might have been very different because it was Poe’s ratiocinator extraordinaire, C. Auguste Dupin, who influenced Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Baker Street sleuth” (Cole). More modern examples of detectives like Dupin come from two T.V series, Columbo and Monk. Both Lt. Columbo and Adrian Monk have a unique ability to figure out clues and notice things that ordinary people will not see. This is similar to Dupin.
Edgar Allan Poe was one of the worlds most famous writers. His famous works are still...
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