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Edgar Allan Poe's Obsession with Death

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Throughout Edgar Allan Poe’s life, death was a frequent visitor to those he loved around him. When Poe was only 3 years old, his loving mother died of Tuberculosis. Because Poe’s father left when he was an infant, he was now an orphan and went to live with the Allan’s. His stepmother was very affectionate towards Edgar and was a very prominent figure in his life. However, years later she also died from Tuberculosis, leaving Poe lonely and forlorn. Also, later on, when Poe was 26, he married his cousin 13-year-old Virginia, whom he adored. But, his happiness did not last long, and Virginia also died of Tuberculosis, otherwise known as the Red Death, a few years later. After Virginia’s death, Poe turned to alcohol and became isolated and reckless. Due to Edgar Allan Poe’s loss of those he cared for throughout his life, Poe’s obsession with death is evident in his works of “The Tell-Tale Heart”, “The Black Cat”, and “The Fall of the House of Usher”, in which in all three death is used to produce guilt.
At the end of “The Tell-Tale Heart”, Poe’s fascination with death is apparent when the narrator ruthlessly killed an old man with a disturbing eye, but felt so guilty that he confessed to the police. The narrator dismembered the old man’s body and hid them in the floor, confident that they were concealed. However, when the police came to investigate, the narrator heard a heart beating and began to crack under the pressure. Overcome with guilt, he confessed that he murdered him and pulled up the floorboards. The narrator exclaimed, “But anything was better than this agony! Anything was more tolerable than this derision!” (“Heart” 4). Although the narrator was calm and confident at first, the guilt he experienced drove him mad, causing...

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...n with death. His fascination with death can be traced back to the death of those he loved in his life, including his mother, step-mother, and wife. Poe conveys his fixation through his narrators in short stories, whether they kill based on fear, hate, or anxiety. By including death in all his works, he frightens his audience and shows them that death is unavoidable and constantly chases us throughout our lives.

Works Cited

Poe, Edgar Allan. “The Fall of the House of Usher.” The American Tradition in Literature. Ed. George Perkins and Barbara Perkins. ___________________: McGraw Hill., 2008. Pg-pg. Print.

“The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe.” University of Virginia, n.d. Web. 27 March, 2014.

The Mystery of Edgar Allan Poe. Biography. A&E Television Network, 1994. DVD.

Poe, Edgar Allan. "The Black Cat." Poe Stories. Robert Giordano, n.d. Web. 29 Mar. 2014.
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