Philosophy of Composition: Edgar Allen Poe

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Philosophy of composition essay

Edgar Allen Poe has been called one of the greatest writers of American literature. In 1846, he wrote his "philosophy of composition." In this, he detailed his approach to writing. He believed that in order to write a successful story, one must "excite the reader to tears". He preferred using extremely dark subject matter as a way to show the reader true beauty. in this he also shows a perfect form; every word he writes has a meaning and a purpose. The Fall of the House of Usher, is a perfect example of Poe's approach to writing; the depravity of the subject brings up extreme emotions in the reader, and contrasts the lack of light and beauty to make us appreciate it all the more, and takes extreme care to ensure that every word leads us toward the ultimate effect of the story.

The family of Usher is known for both for their extreme affinity for music, and their family tree. the family tree of Usher "has no known enduring branches" meaning that the family practices incest. this immediately fills the reader with horror as incest is a dark and deplorable act. For poe, this is the best way to make the reader feel because the strongest emotions a person is capable of feeling are sadness and horror. Poe says that through horror and depravity, and lack of beauty, we learn to appreciate beauty even more.

The House of Usher, is a perfect example of Poe using the lack of beauty to make us appreciate it more. The story of the Usher family is horrible and dark. the only source of beauty for the family is music. This shows us the beauty is necessary in all situations, and without it, life becomes dark and unbearable. the fact that the Ushers live their lives without true beauty, makes us appreciate the beauty in our lives more than we would if we never knew what life without beauty was like. This is exactly what Poe was trying to get across with his writing.

Every word that Poe writes, leads toward the "single effect" he is...
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