Essay, Research Paper: Edgar Poe

Famous People

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Many authors have made great contributions to the world of literature. Mark
Twain introduced Americans to life on the Mississippi. Thomas Hardy wrote on his
pessimistic views of the Victorian Age. Another author that influenced
literature is Edgar Allan Poe. Poe is known as the father of the American short
story and father of the detective story. To understand the literary
contributions of Edgar Allan Poe, one must look at his early life, his literary
life, and a summary of two of his famous works. "Edgar Allan Poe was born
in Boston'' (Inglis 505) "on January 19, 1809'' (Asselineau 409). He was
born to a southern family that were in a traveling company of actors (Inglis
505). His father, David Poe, was from a Baltimore family. He was an actor by
profession and a heavy drinker. Soon after Edgar Allan Poe was born, he left his
family. Poe's mother, Elizabeth Arnold Poe, was a widow at the age of eighteen.
Two years after his birth, she died of tuberculosis (Asselineau 409). When his
mother died, Poe was adopted by John Allan (Perry XI) at the urging of Mr.
Allan's wife. In 1815, John Allan moved his family to England. While there, Poe
was sent to private schools (Asselineau 410). In the spring of 1826, Poe entered
the University of Virginia. There he studied Spanish, French, Italian, and
Latin. He had an excellent scholastic record. He got into difficulties almost at
once. Mr. Allan did not provide him with the money to pay for his fees and other
necessities. Poe was confused and homesick. He learned to play cards and started
drinking. Soon he was in debt in excess of two thousand dollars. Poe discovered
that he could not depend upon Allan for financial support. His foster father
refused to pay his debts, and Poe had to withdraw from the University (Asselineau
410). In May of 1827, Poe enlisted in the army as a common soldier. He did this
under the name of Edgar A. Perry. He was stationed on Sullivan's Island in
Charleston Harbor for over a year. Poe adapted very well to military discipline
and quickly rose to the rank of regimental sergeant major. After a while, he got
tired of the same daily routine involved in military life. Poe wrote regularly
to Mr. Allan. He met with Mr. Allan after the death of Mrs. Allan in February of
1829. With Allan's support, he received his discharge and enlisted in West Point
on July 1, l830 (Asselineau 410). While at West Point, Mr. Allan, who had
remarried, continued in not providing Poe with enough money. Poe decided to have
himself kicked out of school. Cutting classes and disregarding orders were his
solutions. He was court-martialed for neglect of duties in January, 1831, and
left West Point the following month (Asselineau 411). "Poe was great in
three different fields , and in each one he made a reputation that would give
any man a high place in literary history. Poe wrote great short stories, famous
not only in his own country, but all over the world (Robinson V)."
"Hawthorne, Irving, Balzac, Bierce, Crane, Hemingway and other writers have
given us memorable short stories; but none has produced so great a number of
famous and unforgettable examples, so many tales that continue, despite changing
standards to be read and reprinted again and again throughout the world (Targ
VII)." "Poe was the father of the modern short story, and the modern
detective story (Targ VII)." "With the possible exception of Guy de
Maupassant, no other writer is so universally known and esteemed for so large of
a corpus of excellent tales as in Edgar Allan Poe (Targ VII)." In 1831, Poe
succeeded in publishing a new edition of his poems entitled, Poems. Poe was now
in great difficulty. He went to New York, but could find no job there.
Eventually he took refuge with his aunt, Mrs. Clemm, in Baltimore. There he
decided to seek employment and make his living by writing. Failing to get
attention with his poems, he decided to start writing short stories. Poe
competed in a contest for the best short story in 1831. The prize was offered by
Phil-Saturday Courier. Because he did not win the prize, Poe started on an
ambitious project. He decided to plan a series of tales told by members of a
literary group. He found no publisher for his stories, and entered the contest
again in June of 1835. This time he sent one poem and six stories (Asselineau
411). His story, "Ms. Found in a Bottle," won , and he received one
hundred dollars for it (Targ IX). Through the influence of one of the judges,
John P. Kennedy, Poe became employed as an editor of the Southern Literary
Messenger, published in Richmond (Asselineau 411). Under Poe's editorship, the
Messenger 's circulation rose from 500 to 3500. While in Richmond, Poe married
his cousin, Virginia, who was not quite fourteen years old. Poe was fired from
the Messenger in January of 1837. Poe then went to New York, where he was
unsuccessful. In the summer of 1838, he moved to Philadelphia. While in
Philadelphia, he worked as the editor of both Burton's Gentleman's Magazine and
Graham's Magazine (Asselineau 412). Even though he won a one hundred dollar
prize for "The Gold Bug" (Robinson VI), he moved to New York. Poe
found a job in New York as an assistant editor for the Evening Mirror. This was
where "The Raven" first appeared on January 29, 1845. "The poem
immediately caught the imagination of the public and was reprinted all over the
country and even abroad in all kinds of newspapers and magazines, but Poe
pocketed only a few dollars for his poems (Asselineau 413)." The year of
1845 was a lucky year for Poe. He published a collection of his Tales and an
edition of his poems named The Raven and Other Poems . He also became the editor
of the weekly Broadway Journal. Poe broke down when Virginia died in January of
1848 ( Asselineau 413). In 1849, Poe died in Baltimore (Targ IX). "Instead
of really living, he took refuge from the physical world in the private world of
his dreams-in other words-in the world of his tales (Asselineau 413)." In
the "Masque of the Red Death", Poe uses his imagination throughout the
story (Rogers 43). A plague has devastated the entire country. It takes only
half an hour tofor the course of the disease to run. At first one feels sharp
pains and dizziness. Then one starts bleeding at the pores. The disease results
in death. Prince Prospero has ordered one thousand lords and ladies to the deep
seclusion of one of his abbeys. The building was built by the Prince and is
filled with his exotic ornaments. It is sealed from the outside world by a huge
wall with iron gates. Inside the building are dancers, musicians, and everything
they need in order to stay secluded until the plague runs its course. After six
months of seclusion, the Prince decides to hold a masked ball. The ball is held
in a suite with seven rooms. Each room is decorated in a single color. The last
room is decorated in red. Within this room stands a huge clock that strikes the
hour with a heavy clang. The rooms are very crowded for the ball. At the stroke
of midnight, a guest is seen in a costume of the red death itself and This
frightens the other guests. The Prince is angered at what he believes to be a
practical joke. He orders the stranger seized and hanged from the battlements.
Prince Prospero follows the stranger into the red chamber. It is there that
Prince Prospero falls dead at the feet of the stranger. The others capture the
unknown person in the costume. To their horror they find there is no living form
in the costume. One by one they die until no one else remains. Death is king of
all (Rogers 41). "The horror abysmal darkness, and absolute helplessness
befalling the victims are described with vivid accuracy in tales such as 'The
Fall of the House of Usher,' 'The Cask of Amontillado,' and 'The Premature
Burial' (Perry XI-XII)." In "The Fall of the House of Usher," the
narrator visits his insane friend, Roderick Usher. Usher's house is huge and
gloomy (Rogers 20). His twin sister, Madeline, gets sick and dies. The narrator
and Usher place her in a tomb in the basement of Usher's house. What they do not
realize is that she is still barely alive. Usher keeps on hearing sounds over
the next couple of days. The seventh day after Madeline's death, a bad storm
appears. The narrator and Usher open the door of the narrator's room and
Madeline falls on Usher . They both die. The narrator then leaves the house. As
he rides away, the house collapses to the floor (Rogers 21).

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