Edgar Allan Poe: the Alcoholic Writer

Topics: Edgar Allan Poe, The Cask of Amontillado, Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum Pages: 7 (2821 words) Published: November 15, 2012
Edgar Allan Poe: The Alcoholic Writer
Edgar Allan Poe is considered one of America’s most influential writers. Some people refer to him as the “Father of the American detective story” (Giordano 2005). His stories are thrilling and full of death, insanity, and darkness, which caused Americans to see a different side of the Romantic genre in literature. Many suggest that the reason behind Poe’s eerie tales was his alcoholism.

Poe was born January 19, 1809 in Boston, Massachusetts. He was the son of David and Elizabeth Poe, who were both actors. When Poe was one-year old, his father abandoned him and his mother. However, he died shortly after. One year later, his mother died of tuberculosis. Since Poe was left an orphan, he informally adopted by the John and Frances Allan, who were wealthy tobacco merchants (Giordano 2005). He attended good schools in Richmond, Virginia and enrolled at the University of Virginia in 1826 (Giordano 2005). Although, Poe seemed like the ideal son and student, John Allan never seemed to fully accept him. He treated Poe coldly and always pushed him to excel and do more with his life. In college, Poe accumulated gambling debts that ultimately led to his disownment from the Allan house (Giordano 2005). As a result, Poe was expelled from the University of Virginia and joined the Army in 1827 (Giordano 2005). However, he was discharged after two years and reconciled with John Allan. Then Poe was enrolled in West Point Military Academy, but Poe did not stay long because he was known to disobey orders (Giordano 2005).

Poe’s bizarre behavior and heavy drinking was not apparent until his mid-twenties. His change came from the sudden disownment from his foster father and many childhood troubles he had faced. Poe never felt true acceptance from his foster father. Poe seemed to go through a pattern when John Allan would try and help him out. Hence, Poe began to distance himself more and more from his foster father and other people. Soon after his dismissal from West Point, Poe moved in with his aunt and soon after married his 13-year-old cousin, Virginia (Giordano 2005). Virginia died in 1847 from tuberculosis, which eventually led Poe into a downward spiral until his death (Giordano 2005). During his wife’s illness, Poe would have binges and times of completely sobriety. Ultimately, Poe weakness to alcohol was so strong he could no longer suppress it. Traces of alcoholism are obvious in many of Poe’s stories. However, The Black Cat and The Cask of Amontillado are among the most popular. These stories can be interpreted on many different levels because everyone has his or her own perspective on things. For instance, some people many not even believe these stories are linked to Poe’s addictions. However, the public knows Poe was an alcoholic and some believe that usually people will not imagine such eerie tales without the help of substances.

The Black Cat seems to be darker version of The Tell-Tale Heart. However, in this tale, Poe gives the conscience a physical form. The Cask of Amontillado, on the other hand, is a disturbing tale of revenge told as a deathbed confession. Superficially, these stories could just be inspired by Poe’s subconscious. However, one must pay close attention to the words and phrases of choice while keeping in mind what could have inspired these bizarre tales.

Poe was alienated himself from the world and took on writing, which is a lonely profession. Therefore, one can assume he could of used writing as a type of self-therapy (Fisher 1978). Almost every piece of literature reveals an aspect of the author’s personality and emotions. For instance, Poe went through many unfortunate events in his life. His experienced loss at a young age and his wife and mother both died of the same illness. Hence, he could of started using alcohol to escape reality and his worries.

During The Black Cat and The Cask of Amontillado the...
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