Edgar Allen Poe is one of the renowned poets whose works have been used by several generations. Poe was born in Boston, Massachusetts, United States of America, when most Americans were beginning to embrace literature. He mainly focused on poems and short stories, especially tales. He is among the earliest writers who invented the current genre of emerging fiction and detective fiction. Despite his contribution to the literature, Poe experienced a difficult life while growing up, which inspired most of his writings. In almost all his works, the themes of life, death, love, alcohol, and insanity are mainly involved.
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In general, he focused on the aspects that people experience in their lifetime. Although many of his short stories are fiction, they are based on personal feelings, which can be linked to his previous involvements. There is no single story that can be delinked from what he experienced when one examines his life. Therefore, Edgar Allen Poe’s life experiences affected his writing in many ways because his themes were based on life issues such as life, death, love, relationships, alcohol, and insanity.
Throughout Poe’s works, there are numerous occasions where the aspect of life is introduced. Poe had undesirable life while growing up, which influenced most of his writings, especially those based on dark stories. Poe did not recognize most of his close family members when he was growing up. This is mainly because he was separated from his parents and other siblings during his birth (Xiong 94). Additionally, he watched most of his family members die close to him. As a result of these life experiences, he got inspired to script unique stories in a creepy style, and this earned him a lot of fame (Xiong 94).
One of the top short stories highly influenced by Poe’s life is “The Masque of the Red Death”. The story revolves around a nation that is experiencing a fatal plague known as the Red Death. The plague kills people faster, and everyone who contracted the disease was isolated from the rest of society. Upon acquiring the infection, blood oozes out of any opening that is found in the body. Through the analysis of the story, one realizes that the story has an interesting connection to Poe’s life. The diseases described in the story are similar to Tuberculosis, which killed many people in the US, including Poe’s biological and foster mother and his wife, the people he truly loved.
Similarly, several of Poe’s works possess a theme of the death of beautiful young ladies. For instance, in his poems of “The Oval Portrait, “Annabel Lee, and “The Fall of the House of Usher,” among others, there are illustrations of the death of innocent young ladies. The deaths are horrible and unique, even though the ladies were previously full of life. The cause of the death is not established, although people try to understand (Xiong 94). Through this theme, there is a clear connection with the life of Poe. The theme is linked to the death of Poe’s foster mother and wife, who both mysteriously had an untimely death. Virginia, his wife, was a beautiful soul that was admired by many, and her death caught many by surprise, just as other deaths in the poems Poe wrote.
Poe’s alcoholic life also influenced a lot of his writings. In the olden days, when his death was inevitable, Poe engaged in depression and madness. As a result, he delved into alcohol, and this affected his life (Dean & Boyd 5). As a result, the stories he scripted in the final days of his life had aspects of the theme of alcohol. For example, the story of “The Black Cat” was published less than five years before the death of Poe (Poe 2).
It is illustrated in the story that the narrator of the tale indulges in alcoholic drinks before attacking and wounding the cat (Alhmdni et al. 3969). The narrator’s drunkard condition lowers his reasoning level, much as Poe did before he encountered his death in 1849. Additionally, the story of the “Cask of Amontillado” was published three years before the end of Poe, and it also holds the theme of alcohol. The main character in the story, Fortunato, is chained by Montresor in his drunken state, and this becomes the reason for his death. In short, the stories written by Poe towards the end of his life all have an aspect of alcoholism, an addiction Poe was experiencing.
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Poe also had an exciting love life which influenced some of his writings. He fell in love with Virginia, a thirteen-year-old cousin. He then proceeded to marry Virginia; however, his love relationship did not last for long because they were separated when she died at a tender age (Dean & Boyd 7). It is evident that he truly loved her wife, and this is exhibited in the alcohol addiction life that he experienced after her death. As a result of his love life, he wrote numerous short stories and poems based on love. The stories usually revolve around heartbreaking when the loved ones die, an act similar to the experience that Poe underwent. For instance, the stories of “The Raven” and “Annabel Lee” demonstrate the death of beautiful young ladies whose deaths torment the relatives remaining behind.
Moreover, Poe was raised in a wealthy family of John and Frances Allan. As a result, he obtained first-class education in good schools. His foster father wanted him to be part of the family business; however, he had an interest in poetry. As a result, he had a frosty relationship with his dad, Allan, who eventually refused to pay for his college education (Dean & Boyd 7). Poe later opted to join the military, and during his training, he wrote the poem “The Tamerlane.”
This story is great in endowed with the theme of hope and despair. In the poem, the narrator desires forgiveness but does not expect any from any human. Instead, he expects only God to forgive him of his sin. Similarly, in Poe’s Life, he desired forgiveness from Allan, who refused to settle his gambling debts in the university, which forced him to drop out of college. Additionally, Allan did not forgive Poe, and this is evident when he never listed him as one of the inheritors in his will.
Moreover, Poe was experiencing insanity and madness towards the end of his life. This was partly caused by depression and the heavy drinking habit he had developed (Dean & Boyd 8). As a result of this, the characters in his stories pose insanity traits. For example, the story of “The Tell-Tale Heart” was published six years before the death of Poe (Dean & Boyd 15). The story is a psychological thriller, and the narrator is the main character in the piece. The speaker suffered a mental problem, which made him kill an older man who was living in the same house. He gives up on murdering the elderly because of his perceived evil eyes, which he saw after watching him for seven days (Poe & Wolfgang 2). The narrator kills the older man and buries him in the flow, an action that a mad person can only take.
Additionally, the narrator claims to hear the man breathe after the burial. This is illustrated when the narrator states that “but, for many minutes, the heartbeat on with a muffled sound” (Poe & Wolfgang 3). The storyteller finally confesses his act to the police, who come to the crime scene. The actions of the main character become similar to those of Poe (Dean & Boyd 15). Although Poe did not kill any person, his mental state was wanting, and most of the time, he was not thinking right. Especially after engaging in heavy alcohol drinking.
In conclusion, the life of Poe influenced most of his writings. Poe’s parents died shortly after he was born, and he barely knew his parents. After their death, he was separated from his siblings, who were taken to live with other relatives, while Poe lived with the Allan’s, his foster parents. He had a frosty relationship with his father while at the same time he was becoming close to his foster mother. However, his foster mother, with whom he had developed a good rapport, died from Tuberculosis. Her wife also died from the same disease, and this made him indulge in alcoholic drinks. As a result of depression and alcoholism, Poe developed levels of insanity in the impending years of his death. As a result of these experiences, most of his stories revolve around death, love, relationships, alcohol, and madness. Therefore, it is evident that life experiences influenced most of Poe’s writings.
Alhmdni, Thulfiqar Abdulameer Sulaiman, Ali Mahdi Salih Shamsah, and Falih Mahdi Jebur Al-Zamili. “In Search of the Cause of Violence in Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Black Cat”.” International Journal of Psychosocial Rehabilitation vol. 24, no. 4, 2020.
Dean, Hannah J., and Ryan L. Boyd. “Deep into that darkness peering: a computational analysis of the role of depression in Edgar Allan Poe’s life and death.” Journal of affective disorders vol. 266, 2020, pp. 482-491.
Poe, Edgar Allan, and Wolfgang Buchta. The tell-tale heart. Wolfgang Buchta, 2002.
Poe, Edgar Allan. The Black Cat & Other Stories. Noura Books, 2016.
Xiong, Ke. “The Influence of Edgar Allan Poe’s Life Experience on His Writings from the Psychoanalytic Perspective.” 2nd International Conference on Art Studies: Science, Experience, Education (ICASSEE 2018). Atlantis Press, 2018.