Gothic Elements in the Short Stories of
Edgar Allan Poe
Edgar Allan Poe is known as the Father of the Gothic. He utilized Gothicism in his short stories such as, ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’ and ‘Ligeia.’ Poe has written numerous literary masterpieces that have focused on the Gothic. Not only have his works been focused on the Gothic, but his life had somewhat of a Gothic theme. Through love, death, and depression, Poe’s life had an impact on the way he wrote, which is evident through in his literary works.
Edgar Allan Poe was born on January 19, 1809 to David and Elizabeth Arnold Poe. Poe’s mother Elizabeth died on December 8th after her husband David abandoned the family, Poe was only two years old. Newly orphaned, Poe was taken in by Frances and John Allan. Poe attended a London boarding school in 1818, until the Allans all moved back to Richmond in 1820 (Peeples, xiii). Poe then attended the University of Virginia in 1826, but did not return after Christmas. In 1827, Poe enlisted in the US Army and was stationed at Fort Moultrie in South Carolina. In 1829 he left the army only to return to West Point and re-enroll in 1830. After the death of his wife in 1829, John Allan remarried in 1830 and cut all ties with Poe (Peeples, xiii). In 1831, Poe was expelled from West Point for not going to class or drills.
Starting his new, adult life, Poe then moved in with his aunt, Maria Clemm, and her daughter, Virginia Clemm. In 1836, Poe married Virginia Clemm who was only 13 years old. Poe published ‘Ligeia’ in 1838 after moving to Philadelphia, Poe then published ‘Usher’ in 1839 (Peeples, xiv). In 1842 Virginia Clemm, the wife of Poe, contracted Tuberculosis. This disease caused the death of Virginia in 1847, and as a result Poe became depressed and sick. In 1848, Poe attempted suicide by means of an overdose of Laudanum. In 1849, Poe dated Elmira Shelton who was his past fiancé and at the time a widow. Poe then left to Richmond where he was found in a tavern passed out and nearly dead. He was then rushed to a hospital where he finally died on October 7, 1849 (Peeples, xvi). Poe utilizes Gothicism in several different aspects of his writing, one being in incestuous relationships and the death of these women who are not only family but also lovers (Fiedler, 415). Another important aspect of Gothicism in the works of Poe is the dead possessing, harming, or loving him or his characters. This is shown in both ‘Usher’ and ‘Ligeia’ (Fiedler, 416). Gothicism provides adventure to escape from everyday boring lifestyles. Audiences enjoy this because it is new and different (Burcuck, 104). Romanticism also comes into play in the writings of Poe. Poe did not really write romantically, rather he wrote all of his works during the Romantic Era. During this era, poets and writers drift away from utilitarian writings and start to focus on feelings. These writings also started to come from the writers’ imaginative, creative side. The basis of all romantic writing is centered on emotions and feelings (Burduck, 103).Romanticism and Gothicism are parallel because romantic writings are centered on feelings and imaginative images, and Gothicism takes this a step further, for example Poe uses horrific images and manipulates the mind of the audience with his writings (Burduck, 104). In Poe’s short story ‘The Fall of the House of Usher,’ the three main characters are Roderick and Madeline Usher and also the Narrator. Roderick Usher is the only man left in the Usher family. His characteristics are pale and dark colored hair and eyes. He also has a strange uneasiness and becomes upset when he comes into contact with bright light, the scent of flowers, and certain sounds. Roderick also has the qualities of a hypochondriac. He believes that the House of Usher and the Family of Usher are cursed, which causes him to be living in constant paranoia. The Narrator believes that Roderick is keeping a deep, dark secret about him or his family, because...
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