Edgar Allan Poe: Dark Romanticism Best Representor
Edgar Allan Poe is one of many writers of the romantic period in literature. He not only wrote into the romanticism genre but wrote in the dark romanticism subgenre. Dark romanticism differs from romanticism because it emphasizes on human fallibility, sin, and judgement. Romanticism emphasizes on the good of people and is full of optimism. Edgar Allan Poe is a perfect example of an author that represents dark romanticism because he correlates his dark personal experiences with his writings.
Dark romanticism, which is what Poe mostly wrote, is a subgenre of romanticism. Romanticism is a genre that values individualism, spiritual freedom, and nature for inspiration. Dark romanticism explores human capability of evil, character’s motivations, and the supernatural. Instead of focusing on heroism, like romanticism does, it focuses on the dark gothic sides of things. Dark romanticism is a reaction from the transcendental movement, theological and philosophical based. Dark romantics also rebelled against the Puritans because dark romantics did not think Puritans acknowledged the darker side of life.
Transcendentalism stresses American ideas of optimism, freedom, and self-reliance (Houghton Mifflin, 468). Transcendentalism is theological and philosophical based. Transcendentalists had a puritanism heritage which means they have some of the same beliefs as them. Transcendentalists and puritans both share beliefs in the personal nature of religion and self-reliance. Dark romanticism believes in the opposite of them both. Dark romanticism believes the dark side of puritanism while puritanism and transcendentalism focuses on the good, positive side. Dark romanticism is pessimistic, and transcendentalism is optimistic.
Poe’s Depressing Life
Edgar Allan Poe’s life played a big role in his writing which helped him become the master of the American gothic form of dark romanticism. His unstable life has helped him to write so many poems and stories. Poe, in a way, connects his personal experiences into his writings. Edgar has not had an easy, delightful life, in fact, his life was depressing and because of that, it inspired many of his stories and poems. Edgar’s father left at two, Mom died at three and he became an orphan at three, but later got adopted by another family. Throughout Edgar’s life, he has had women that have left him and passed away. With that being said, people, especially women, leaving his life made a big impact on him and his mental health. In two of his poems, “The Raven” and “Annabel Lee”, it talks about the passing of the narrator’s past relations with women.
The poem “The Raven” is a poem about the narrator sitting in his room alone until he hears tapping, thinking it’s his beloved wife, Lenore, who passed away. The narrator checks outside his room door to see if anyone was there and there was nothing but darkness. “Darkness there and nothing more. Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing, Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;” (Poe, stanza 5, lines 1-3). Poe is setting the atmosphere to be dark, depressing, and gloomy. All is fine until a raven flew into his room and is perched up on the chamber door. Poe continues to set the mood to be darker by his use of descriptive words. “Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into,” (Poe, stanza 9, line 2). The raven sitting, perched up on the door, spoke. “Nevermore”. Hearing this, the narrator thought the bird was able to speak more. After asking the raven if it could talk, it just kept repeating nevermore. The narrator was driven mad hearing nevermore over and over, he thought the raven was a prophet sent from the devil. “Prophet! Said I, thing of evil! —prophet still if bird or devil” (Poe, stanza 15,line 1). The raven in the poem is a viewed by the narrator as a supernatural creature sent by the devil. In dark romanticism, it focuses on the dark, supernatural side of things and that is why the poem “The Raven” is a great example it.
The poem “Annabel Lee” is a poem about a girl named Annabel Lee who was in love with the narrator but got killed by the angels in heaven due to jealousy. This poem is another prime example of dark romanticism. Dark romanticism explores the supernatural, and in the poem, it states “The angels, not half so happy in heaven, Went envying her and me —” (Poe, stanza 6, lines 1-2). The poem talks about the supernatural, the angels, being jealous of the narrator and Annabel Lee’s love. With the angels being jealous, they kill Annabel Lee, leaving the narrator lonesome but still heavily connected with his love. The angels show envy and are supernatural, which are two characteristics dark romanticism.
The Similarity of the Poems
“The Raven” and “Annabel Lee” are poems that connect to dark romanticism. Both correlate and share similar interests. In both poems they have passed away females and the supernatural. The poems are dark, gothic, and depressing. The poems listed have the characteristics described to be dark romanticism and that is why they are. Poe, suffering from the loss of females in his life, are implemented into the poems. It may not be directly, but it is implied that Poe has suffered from the loss of women.
In conclusion Edgar Allan Poe is a perfect example of dark romanticism. He uses the characteristics of dark romanticism in his poems and stories. Poe going through the depressing, sad life he did have, has helped him tremendously in writing. Going through depression and the loss of loved ones helped him capture the essence of dark romanticism. His writing has helped shaped romanticism as it is. He is one of the most known authors with his popular works and that is why he best represents dark romanticism.
- “Annabel Lee by Edgar Allan Poe – Poems | Academy of American Poets.” Poets.org, Academy of American Poets, https://poets.org/poem/annabel-lee.
- “The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe – Poems | Academy of American Poets.” Poets.org, Academy of American Poets, https://poets.org/poem/raven.
- “Sutori.” Sutori, www.sutori.com/story/history-of-dark-romanticism–d63bRMCDS8C6zFMUo4vEaabA.
- Holt McDougal Literature: Grade 11. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012.
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