Edgar Allan Poe was born in Boston on January 19, 1809. Orphaned at the age of three, Edgar was sent to a foster home where he lived with the Allans in Richmond, VA until he married his thirteen-year-old cousin, Virginia Clemm. Throughout his youth, Edgar experienced rocky relations with the Allans and was eventually disowned before his marriage. (Compton’s, pp. 401-02) Edgar Allan Poe’s short stories and poems induce disturbing emotions which stem from an unstable childhood as a result of a disjointed family life.
After leaving his broken foster home, Poe enlisted in the army under the name Edgar A. Perry in 1827. Aspiring to become an officer in hopes to regain favor with Mr. Allan, Poe was granted an honorable discharge and sought an appointment at West Point. (Forrest, P., “Who Was Poe?”) While waiting for over a year to hear from the school, Poe resided with his widowed aunt, Ms. Maria Clemm in Baltimore. In 1830, Poe was sworn in as a cadet. However, the death of his foster mother led to Mr. Allan’s remarriage and Poe’s exclusion from the family will. Upon receiving such news, Poe deliberately neglected his classes and was expelled from West Point after only eight months of study. His writing career began soon after when he won a short story contest in 1833 and became a literary critic for “The Southern Literary Messenger”. Later writing opportunities brought Poe a small income, which paved the way for his marriage to Virginia Clemm in 1835. (Compton’s, pp. 401-02)
Virginia was half Edgar’s age and represented the only sense of family Poe had ever known. When she became ill with tuberculosis in 1843, Poe fell into severe depression marked by bouts of drinking and gambling. His publication of “The Raven” in 1845 illustrated this unstable mind frame and foreshadowed Virginia’s death in 1847. (Compton’s, pp. 401-02)
“It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore-
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore.”
Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”‘ (Frazah, Homepage)
Likewise, many of his works during this period reflect similarly disturbing emotions brought on by a need to express the rage of past events in his life through his short stories and poems.
The erratic subjects and tones of Poe’s works encompass not only his despair resulting from Virginia’s death but also the angst of being robbed of a loving family in his earlier youth. His relations with Mr. Allan proved to be insincere after Mrs. Allan’s death. Poe was left only with the realization that what scraps of a family he held on to for so long were false securities which led him nowhere. He struggled to gain favor with his foster father for years before grasping this concept. His marriage to Virginia Clemm was an effort to restore a sense of lost family which only ended in further despair. Clearly these events created so deep an impact on Poe that his writings reflect a tendency of lonely, desperate, and erratic tones which parallel the nature of his behaviors.
“Leave my loneliness unbroken!- quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!”
Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”‘ (Frazuh, Homepage)
The standard trademark of Poe’s writing is that it evokes disturbing images and emotions which instill a sense of loneliness. He has the ability to create a mirror image of himself in every short story and poem. The sadness, which plagued Poe throughout his life, laid the framework for all of his writings. Without such a motivation, Poe may have created equally beautiful works yet they would not have instilled a sense of the life he led so clearly. They leave behind a photographic image of the man he was.
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