Edgar Allan Poe is a man who is considered to be a true American genius of our time, and by many, the personification of death. His works have been collected and celebrated for over a hundred years from this day. He was a man who’s dreary horror tales captured and frightened the minds of millions. Poe differed from most other acclaimed writers though. The readers of his work do not admire him because they fall in love with his characters or because his writing touches their hearts. On the contrary, his readers admire him because he managed to change reality for them. Edgar Allan Poe’s skill was developed in his subject matter of death and its horrid truths. Poe’s tales centered away from the life of a man and towards the effects of death on a man, whether it be his own or that of another. Poe was adept at creating an atmosphere of suspense with the minimum use of words and dramatic effects1.
Poe’s best known works include such masterpieces as Annabel Lee, The Raven, The Fall of the House of Usher, The Mask of the Red Death, The Murders of the Rue Morgue, and many others. Each and every one of these titles, among others, share one common trait that is more than evident, they all deal with death. When these tittles monopolize the attention, it is only natural that the central body of Poe’s work should seen to be a tissue of nightmares.2 How is it that a subject that is so repulsive to mankind can at the same time attract so many people? Perhaps it wasn’t the subject, but the skill with which it was written that lured people to it. Fish are lured to a deadly hook, but the bait makes it beautiful. In this same manner, people are mesmerized by the beauty and genius of Poe’s work. The better question is, what is it that drove Poe to become so obsessed with death? Why is it that he portrayed his genius through this topic? The only true way to answer these questions is through a deep analysis of not only Poe’s works, but his life and his mind.
As stated earlier, one of his most acclaimed works is Annabel Lee. It is indeed a love tale. A poem written for his beautiful Annabel Lee. It speaks of the strong and unbreakable love that existed between them. This appears to be a happy enough topic, except for one significant fact. This Annabel Lee is dead.3 According to Poe, her death was caused by the angels who were jealous of the love between him and Annable Lee.
It is odd that a love poem would be underlied by death, but the reasoning is unveiled with the study of Poe. Poe’s history included a sadly large collection of dying women in his life. First came his mother, Elizabeth Poe, later followed by Jane Standard, Frances Allan, and Virginia Clemm. All these women were very close to Poe, and many he was in love with 4. It is said that Virginia may have inspired him to write Annabel Lee 5. The topic of dying women certainly affected Poe. He came to see their deaths as a sort of tragic romantic beauty. Poe believed that the tone of the highest beauty in poetry is sadness and that melancholy. Poe’s notion of the function of melancholy in poetry lends him to ask himself what is the most melancholy of subjects. He was quoted to say, “Death, when it most closely allies itself to beauty: the death, then, of a beautiful woman is, unquestionably, the most poetical topic in the world - and equally is it beyond doubt that the lips best suited for such a topic are those of a bereaved lover. .”6 Regardless of whether or not one agrees with Poe’s belief, Annabel Lee definitely causes one’s emotions to stir.
As far as Poe’s literary career is concerned, he was far more than just a poet. Poe wrote many poems, short stories, and short prose pieces. His short stories and prose allow him more leeway with his words to make chills run down the spine of anyone who reads it. He is...
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