Autobiographical Elements in the Works of Edgar Allan Poe

April 28, 2022 by Essay Writer

Everyone has different thoughts about Edgar Allan Poe. Opinions range from a genius, classic, insane, terrifying author. His works were the firsts of his kind by that epoch, which brought controversy among the public. His capacity to illustrate technical and abstract beauty, with thrilling themes was affected by many aspects of his life. It is quite true, however, his entire life was not miserable at all. In fact, there are some of his poems with good characters modeled after him.

Poe published his first story in 1832, anonymously. Poe’s stories are filled with supernatural events that include death or the afterlife. Rumors emerged claiming that Poe was an alcoholic and was drugged when he was writting, this cannot be true according to Merton Yewdale. His reputation was impaired by Rufus Griswold’s Memoir of the author (1850) which described Edgar Allan Poe in a very negative way and that the “blemishes of his life were effects of character rather than circumstances” (Young, p. 444). This biography created desinformation and was the only source of data the people had about his life and attitudes. The truth has always been manipulated so much of it remains a mystery. However, what is for sure is the dismal childhood of Poe. Confusion can emerge while reading and making an approach to his tales and poems because of his frequent use of the first person about vivid events. People had the mistake to consider that the “I” in his narratives was totally Poe himself. He was described as a lunatic, a drug addict, alcoholic, and even a murderer. Actually, Poe was a relatively sane person with a deeply emotional character, peace-loving, and a hardworking writer and editor. It is very possible that he used drugs and was overindulged in alcohol occasionally. He also had unstable mental stability from time to time, especially during tragic and stressful moments in his life. It is certain that he was inspired by these feelings and experiences to make his fiction.

This stimulated his particular and macabre type of writing. His personal experiences, external, psychological, even biological factors influenced many of his works.

In William Wilson, we can find a deep connection and significance in the story setting and the events that took place in Poe´s life. The story features an anonymous narrator who is tormented by the existence of a man who has, for an unknown and particular reason, his identical first and last name. Both of them have the same appearance, height, intellectual skills, and birth date. The narrator encounters his doppelganger in primary school then, he appears again in college to finally follow him in his adulthood. Wilson kills his double, but its ambiguous ending suggests that the narrator actually killed himself. Critics have focused on its symbolism and psychology. Many agree that its the story of an evil man who is tortured by his conscience. On the other hand, Poe describes Wilson´s college, disguised as Oxford “the most dissipated university of England”, is referring to the University in Virginia in which he studied for 5 years, but had was known for drinking, fighting and gambling. In the story, Wilson´s doppelganger exposes him by revealing that he was cheating at cards which provoke the narrator to leave school and kept moving town to town. The strong difference between the story and Poe´s life is that, in reality, he was not expelled from college for gambling, instead, his father, John Allan, refused to supply him with money. Therefore, Poe borrowed and gambled to keep up with his friends, but he loose money when playing cards. He would spend most of his life subsisting with the income of a writer, editor and literary critic, his poverty put him on starvation from time to time. He expressed his laments at the beginning of William Wilson:

“Oh, outcast of all outcasts most abandoned! – to the earth art thou not forever dead?” (William Wilson, 1839, p.2)

Nevertheless, the unification between the supernatural and psychological exists in many of his works. Two splitted personalities, and a man tortured and followed by his own conscience, it also can be found in The Tale-Tell Heart rather than just in William Wilson. (…)

Despite Poe´s horror tales, he was a person completely passionate and very fortunate with women. However, most of them ended in tragedy. There is a lot of unfortunate deaths of women related to Edgar, first it was his mom, then Jane Starnard, his stepmother and finally, his wife Virginia Clemm. Just like in his tales, many women died through out his life which inspired him to create many of his famous stories like The Black Cat, Annable Lee, The Raven, etc. Particularly in The Masque Of The Red Death, contains an insteresting connection between the story and Poe´s traumatic experiences. In “The Masque Of The Red Death” a country was devastated by a deadly plague known as the Red Death, similar to the Black Plague that took millions of lives in Europe. The symptoms of the red death were painful: sharp pain, sudden dizziness, profuse bleeding, and scarlet stains scattered through all the body. The intriguing thing about this is that the disease is similar to tuberculosis, an illness connected with Poe’s life, as it claimed the lives of his mother, foster mother, brother, and wife, the few people he truly loved. This tale shows us a deep message saying that no one can escape death, it is present among all of us.

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