The Autobiographical Elements in the Works of Edgar Allan Poe
"There is no exquisite beauty without some strangeness in the proportions" (Biography on Poe 8). Edgar Alan Poe endured a very difficult life and this is evident in his literary style. He was once titled the "master of the macabre." One of the aspects in his life with which he struggled was social isolation. He used this as a topic in a number of poems and short stories. Poe's life was also filled with periods of fear and irrationality. He had a very sensitive side when it came to the female gender, any woman he was ever close to died at an early age. Another of his major battles, actually the only one he really lost, was his struggle with alcoholism. Of all these topics, Poe's favorites were the death of a beautiful woman, a feeling which he knew all too well, and the general topic of death.
During Poe's life, he experienced extreme social isolation. These feelings of separation began when his father died or disappeared around the time of the birth of Poe's sister, Rosalie. The family then moved and he was separated from his older brother, who was left with relatives in Baltimore. During those toddler years, Poe found his mother in the last stages of tuberculosis. Upon her death, he was then separated from his younger sister, Rosalie. Another major low point in his life was the death of his foster mother, Mrs. Frances Allan, and his foster father disowning him, all at one time. The most significant set-back to Edgar Allan Poe was the death of his cousin/wife Virginia Clemm. This single incident was the cause of almost all of his feelings of isolation in his in his adulthood. He felt as though anyone he became close to would die.
Poe wrote about isolation in many of his most popular works. "A Dream Within a Dream" was not one of his more popular poems, but it discussed the difficult process of having to say good-bye to a loved one. He also wrote, "The Raven," in which the narrator went insane talking to a bird about losing his lost Lenore and realizing he was all alone. A third poem in which Poe revealed to the reader his feelings of loneliness was, The Cask of Amontillado. In this story, the main character Fortunato, was left to die in a tomb after being tricked by his love's father. Lastly, the poem, "Silence," strongly suggested that he felt alone in the world, and was longing for companionship. Suffering through several periods of fear and irrationality during his life, Poe included those experiences in many of his more famous works. One of these periods involved experiences in joining the army in order to get away from his foster father after the death of his foster mother. Another of these times was his dismissal from the army which was actually on purpose; he missed all of his drills and was asked to leave immediately. These periods of fear and irrationality were the cause of his misfortune and poor social status. He was looked down upon by his peers for these episodes.
" A constant theme of Edgar Allan Poe was madness" ("Short Stories," 1995, p. 1). Poe expressed this theme throughout almost all of his short stories and poems. " Many of his stories exhibited abnormal states of mind and are constructed in terms of a single mad obsession" (Hervey 1). His insane ways made his work stand out from the normal short story, or poem. He was able to twist his stories and poems around in a way that almost seemed real, and was definitely intriguing. An example of this could be found in the Black Cat. The character took the eyes out of the first cat and then killed it. After that he proceeded to "accidentally" kill his wife with an ax, and bury her in a wall. Another example of Poe's insanity demonstrated within his works was located in The Tell Tale Heart, where Edgar stalked a man and eventually killed him. He then dismembered the body, took out his heart, and buried the man under the house. He later...
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