Edgar Allan Poe For some class on some date with some professor The Influence of Family and Friends on Poe Over the course of Poes forty year stay on Earth, he was exposed early to several key people who would have a profound impact on his writings. Though this idea in and of itself is not uncommon in literature, for Poe it went far beyond being merely influenced. Beginning at age 3 when he lost his parents, Poe was subjected to a difficult life that would later play heavily in his works. Between his foster father (John Allan), his first love (Sarah Elmis Royster) and his young first wife (Virginia Cleem), Poes contacts largely dictated his works. How was it that such an obviously brilliant individual like Poe allowed himself to be mentally manipulated by these people? To answer this question, it is necessary to take a step back and first get a little background. Edgar Allen Poe was born on January 19, 1809 to two struggling actors, David and Elizabeth Poe. When his father died at the age of 36, Edgar was left alone with his pregnant mother. He traveled with his mother and sister from theater to theater, often sleeping backstage.
When his mother died of tuberculosis on December 11, 1811 at the young age of 24, Edgar and his sister, Rosalie, were orphaned. Edgar was only two years old. His sister was sent to live with a Mrs. Mackenzie when she was one, Edgar went to live with John and Frances Allen. Edgar’s older brother William, was already living with their grandfather, David Poe, Sr., because at the time of his birth, David and Elizabeth could not afford to care for him. Edgar moved to Richmond, Virginia with the Allans, where he had many luxuries that he had never had before.
He had his own bedroom in the apartment above John Allen’s store, Ellis & Allen, and even servants to help him wash before bed and put away his clothes. Growing up, Edgar never got along with his foster father, often arguing with him, and rarely showing any affection. John Allen once even described his son as “miserable, sulky, and ill-tempered”. There was also the matter of Edgar’s alcoholism, which brought shame upon his foster family and friends. Even his beloved first fiancee Sarah Elmira Royster, eventually refused to see him, because of his drinking habits. One night after a particularly bitter argument with Mr.
Allen, he decided to leave his home and go to Boston. Boston was only the short term answer and soon Poe was disillusioned with the city. After an unpleasant month in Boston, Edgar was once again on the road. After having a few poems published and withdrawing from a military academy he eventually wound up in Baltimore, Maryland, penniless. He soon found that his relatives there were as poor as he was. Even so, they welcomed him into their homes and hearts. He stayed for a while in the home of his aunt, Maria Clemm.
Also living with Mrs. Clemm were her two children, Henry, 13, and Virginia; Poe’s cousin and future wife. In addition, his paralyzed grandmother and his dying brother William, 24 also resided there. He tried unsuccessfully to get a job at several newspapers, before seeing a contest for the best short story in the local paper. Being rather poor, Poe proceeded writing short stories in attempt to win the $100 winners prize.
Even though he did not win the $100 for his efforts, Poe did have some of the stories published in the years to come, but he never had anything to show for it , because the newspaper did not give him credit for writing the stories. Poe was offered a job back in Richmond, and he had to leave Baltimore(and worse, Virginia, with whom he had fallen in love) to take the job. He rapidly fell into depression while in Richmond over the absence of his beloved Virginia and was driven once again to drinking. . Poe’s drinking had gotten out of hand and he was fired.
He went back to Baltimore on the spot and asked for Virginia’s hand in marriage. They got married a year later. Soon after he was wed, he was re-offered the job in Richmond, but only if he promised to never drink again. He promised to never let another sip of liquor pass his lips, and went to Richmond, this time taking Virginia and his aunt Maria. This would prove to be the high point of Poes life.
Not due to any success or recognition, but more importantly he was happy if only for a brief time. In the years to come there would be both better and worse times in Edgar’s life. After moving from the city his life totally fell apart, he had to shut down his newspaper because of bad reviews, his wife was growing increasingly ill, and he was sick as well. He eventually broke his vow and went back to drinking, which only caused problems. Several times he was found wandering drunk in the streets of New York where he had recently relocated with his wife and mother-in-law after taking an editing job at the Broadway Journal. Virginia did not take to life in the city, however, and asked Edgar to move to the country. Eager to please his beloved wife, who was stricken with tuberculosis, he agreed. Virginia’s long struggle finally ended on January 29, 1847 at the age of 24, the very age as Edgar’s mother when she died. After her death Poe was inconsolable, once again thrown into the depths of depression and despair.
If there were any positives about Virginias death, it would be that Poe was once again inspired to write. His post-Virginia material made up in pure genius what it lost in good mood. These works can be distinguished as dark and morbid, traits not unlike his earlier work. They did however change subject matter even as they retained mood. In the “Oval Portrait” for example, Poe writes of a man obsessed with creating the ideal portrait of his new wife.
The piece is finally created at the cost of the young models life. The parallels to Poes own life are fairly obvious. He, like the painter, sacrificed everything for his art only to realize later that the price was too high. The first poem that he wrote after her death was Ulalume, a poem recalling a lover’s visit to his loved one’s grave. Poe writes: Then my heart it grew ashen and sober As the leaves that were crisped and sere- As the leaves that were withering and sere- And I cried- “It was surely October On this very night of last year That I journeyed- I journeyed down here- That I brought a dread burden down here- On this night of all nights in the year, Ah, what demon has tempted me here? Well I know, now, this dim lake of Auber- This misty mid region of Weir- : Well I know, now, this dank tarn of Auber, This ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir.” The tone of this poem perfectly reflects how forlorn Poe was at this point in his life.
His mastery of setting the mood is unequaled in all literature. Another aspect that puts Poe above the rest is his technique that compliments his style. A writing style that was entirely unique. His uniqueness can again be attributed to the people who passed through his life. All of Poe’s other writings reflect his life, be it sad or happy.
As aforementioned, Poe had problems with his foster dad. As a result, Poe often portrayed men as bad people in his short stories. In the “Cask of Amontillado”, the protagonist is an apparently insane man who walls up his foe is his underground vaults. “Hop-Frog” has a sinister king burned alive by his abused midget. “The Tell-Tale Heart” is another deranged man who slaughters an old man in his sleep and the list goes on.
The very best example of this would have to be “The Black Cat”. The classic tale of man who comes home in a drunken daze. He is angered by his cat and in attempt to kill the animal with an ax, the main character buries the axes head into his wife, killing her. For the remainder of the story he is tormented by his failure to kill the cat. That, coupled with the loss of his wife, devour his mind until he is a rambling mess. It is fairly clear where the inspirations come from in that story, as well as many of his others.
The situations change, but the end result is always the man being portrayed in a poorly in his short stories (This isnt necessarily true in Poes poetry, which tends to feature more topics on loss and grief). This portrayals can be largely attributed to the daily struggle Poe had with John Allan. For Poe to create some mythical land where his relationships with males are tolerable, would have been untrue to himself as a writer. He is effect …