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Edgar Allan Poe-A Tale of a Tormented Man

Updated on August 16, 2014

The life of Edgar Allan Poe, was stuffed with tragedies that all affected his art. From the very start of his writing career, he adored writing poems for the ladies in his life. When he reached adulthood and came to the realization of how harsh life could be, his writing grew to be darker and more disturbing, possibly as a result of his intense experimenting with opium and alcohol. His stories continue to be some of the most frightening stories ever composed, because of this, some have considered this to be the reason behind these themes. Many historians and literature enthusiasts have presumed his volatile love life as the source while others have credited it to his substance abuse. The influence of his one-of-a-kind writing is more than likely a combination of both theories; but the main factor is the death of many of his loved ones and the abuse which he endured. This, not surprisingly, darkened his perspective considerably.

Before the age of three, Poe was already an orphan after his Mother dying and his Father walking out on them (Frank 56). Poe was too young to remember his Mother since her death occurred when he was very young, but later in his life he grew resentful for being raised as a foster child. After the loss of his Mother, Poe would go on to experience the death of many more loved ones. This became the source of the terrible fear Poe would associate with death and dying, a common theme in many of his works. Soon after the death of his mother, Poe was taken in by John Allan and Frances Keeling Valentine Allan, and he relocated to Richmond to join his new foster family. His foster father, John Allan, continually abused him. Poe enlisted in the army as a way to escape his troubled home life. Poe excelled in the military, and published his first book around that time, a story entitled Tamerlane and Minor Poems. This book contained poems to girls in his life. At this stage Poe had not become fully aware of how much the abuse he had endured would affect him. However, later in life, Poe would see the world as an abusive and cruel place.

Poe's childhood home.

Frances Keeling Valentine Allan, Poe's foster Mother, was the one positive influence in his life. She taught him history, reading and writing. He treasured these lessons immensely, and loved the kindness in which his foster mother treated him. Frances would guard him from abuse whenever she could control her husband. Poe’s close connection with his foster mother made her death at such an early age severely overwhelming and difficult for him to handle. Overtime it is easy to see the gradual darkening in his works which is directly correlated to the many deaths of his loved ones.

After dropping out of West Point, Poe went to live with his Aunt Maria Clemm. This was when he started writing prose and short stories. Poe received news that his brother, William Henry Leonard Poe had died of tuberculosis. Even though Poe had not maintained much of a relationship with his brother, the news hit him hard. This was when he wrote two works: Ligeia and The Fall of the House of Usher. Poe wanted to write poems that would evoke emotions and produce a certain effect in readers. He wanted to touch their hearts and allow readers to acknowledge their own sorrows. Poe then published Annabel Lee and The Raven. The main theme in The Raven is grief and sorrow. Poe wrote this as a reflection of his own mental anguish resulting from the deaths of his loved ones.

The news of his foster Father dying took a severe toll on Poe's mental stability and his writing. In spite of the volatile relationship, Poe began putting opium in his alcohol. While he had already developed his addiction to alcohol and opium at this point, his abuse of the substances dramatically increased. Poe began to write about sudden death, and after a number of humiliating scenes in public, his reputation began to tarnish.

Poe then moved to Virginia, where he worked for The Messenger magazine. His writing soon gained the magazine significant popularity, but his substance abuse pushed his boss to ultimately fire him. From there Poe married his young cousin Virginia and moved further north. The marriage was short lived as his wife, Virginia died of tuberculosis. The death of Virginia drove Poe to excessive drinking, which resulted in various job losses, a canceled speech to be made at the White House and two failed relationships. During the time leading up to his wife's death, Poe wrote The Conqueror Worm. Since during this period his wife was slowly succumbing to her illness; the poem graphically details the decay of human flesh when maggots and worms feed on the corpse. The death of Virginia also influenced the works The Tell-Tale Heart and The Pit and the Pendulum, two of Poe's most graphic and frightening tales. During the funeral Poe stated "Deep in earth my love is lying and I must weep alone” (Howarth 342). With Virginia in mind, Poe wrote Annabel Lee, a beautiful poem that continues to be one of the most poignant and bittersweet poems ever written.

Poe would die on October 7, 1849. His final words were “Lord help my poor soul”, which he considered to be in significant trouble, as a result of the darkness which death had continuously had on him (Meyers 325). Poe’s work reflected the personal tragedies and loss he endured throughout his life. Sorrow and darkness were a constant theme played out in both his life and his work. Unfortunately, Poe wrote about what he could not seem to escape, the continuing death and loss of the people around him. The loneliness and sorrow Poe experienced throughout his life was the driving force behind his work. The substance abuse came as a result of the emptiness and sorrow Poe felt, resulting in the self-destruction and eventual end to his own life. In spite of his own tragedies, he remains one of the most treasured and beloved writers' in American history. His haunting poems and stories will be read by numerous generations.

Even though it is very common amongst authors to utilize poetry as a tool to channel events and feelings from their personal lives, it remains necessary to analyze Poe’s capability to do so in order to thoroughly grasp the degree of this inclusion of life events into all of his works. In Poe's work, he displayed an amazing order of language and techniques along with a passionate and unique imagination. During Edgar Allan Poe's life from 1809-1849, American readers possessed an appetite for revenge. American readers seemed determined to see what would result following the climax of a story. Revenge was a thriller and was something unforeseen to the readers throughout this time. Poe offered readers what they wanted and incorporated revenge in plenty of his works. Poe is the greatest writer of Dark Romanticism. During this time most everything he wrote was of darkness, gloom, revenge, violence, confusion and mysteries. Additionally, the characters in his works were the same way- mysterious, unusual and usually bizarre. He was deeply inspired by the Gothic tradition. The Gothic tradition of writing had made its way into stories, novels and poetry. It is a work that consists of vicious actions, gloomy details and decay. Poe's preferred form of Gothic tale was tale of sensation. In this form of tale the characters expressed their feelings while on the edge of death. "Poe took full advantage of this influence, as his short stories are some of the best examples of this form of writing (Moss, and Wilson 57).”

As with many other writers, Poe gained his motivation from his life and the experiences he had while growing up. This offered him a new perspective on the world around him. On the other hand, Edgar Allan Poe was also inspired by the time period during the time he lived. Readers learned precisely just who Edgar Allan Poe was through his works. His tragic life and the period of time in which he lived, both had a great influence on who Edgar Allan Poe was and his work. Edgar Allan Poe was an intriguing writer. Many believed he had a twisted mind because of the dark themes found in many of his stories, yet others found his writing captivating. The works of Edgar Allan Poe are still very well-known and treasured by people all over the world for his different theme of writing. Edgar Allan Poe will forever be known and appreciated for his writings.

It is evident, by analysis, that Edgar Allan Poe's poetry, was produced, not only as a source of astounding beauty, but also as a way of expression of emotion. Poe structured his themes around a single objective; to shape the subconscious mind of his audience. Though Poe lived a short and tragic life, Edgar Allan Poe continues to be one of the most-beloved writers of all time. His contributions to literature cannot be underestimated. Poe’s notoriety is not lightly ignored. For a man who has been dead for over one hundred years, Poe still is able to inspire incredibly intense emotions. Even those who dislike his writings are likely to react to his name with a striking level of intensity

Poe's home in the Bronx where he lived up until his death.


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