The Life of Edgar Allan Poe

Better Essays
The Life of Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe was a bizarre and often scary writer. People throughout

history have often wondered why his writings were so fantastically different and

unusual. They were not the result of a diseased mind, as some think. Rather

they came from a tense and miserable life. Edgar Allan Poe was not a happy man.

He was a victim of fate from the moment he was born to his death only forty

years later. He died alone and unappreciated. It is quite obvious that his

life affected his writings in a great way. In order to understand why, the

historical background of Poe must be known.

Poe was born in Boston, Massachusetts on January 19, 1809. His parents

were touring actors and both died before he was three years old. After this, he

was taken into the home of John Allan, a prosperous merchant who lived in

Richmond, Virginia.1 When he was six, he studied in England for five years.

Not much else is known about his childhood, except that it was uneventful.

In 1826, when Poe was seventeen years old he entered the University of

Virginia. It was also at this time that he was engaged to marry his childhood

sweetheart, Sarah Elmira Royster. He was a good student, but only stayed for a

year. He did not have enough money to make ends meet, so he ran up extremely

large gambling debts to trying make more money. Then he could not afford to go

to school anymore. John Allan refused to pay off Poe's debts, and broke off his

engagement to Sarah Elmira Royster. Since Poe had no other means of support, he

enlisted in the army. By this time however, he had written and printed his

first book, Tammerlane, and Minor Poems (1829).2

After a few months though, John Allan and Poe were reconciled. Allan

arranged for Poe to be released from the army and enrolled him at West Point.

During this time, his fellow cadets helped him publish another book of poetry.

However, John Allan again did not provide Poe with enough money, and Poe decided

to leave this time before racking up any more debts

Still, Poe had no money and necessity forced him to live with his aunt,

Mrs. Clemm, in Baltimore, Maryland. None of his poetry had sold particularly

well, so he decided to write stories. He could find no publisher for his

stories, and so resorted to entering writing contests to make money and receive

exposure. He was rarely suc...

... middle of paper ...


the House of Usher” what kills Roderick Usher is the sheer terror of his sister

who appeared to have come back from the dead.

According to Marie Bonaparte, one of Freud's friends and disciples, all

the disorders Poe suffered from can be explained by the Oedipus Complex and the

trauma he suffered when his mother died. The Oedipus Complex is best described

as a child's unconscious desire for the exclusive love of the parent of the

opposite sex. The desire includes jealousy toward the parent of the same sex

and the unconscious wish for that parent's death. In fact, upon examining the

women in Poe's stories, we find that they bear striking resemblance to the

mother that Poe never had.

So one gets a glimpse at how Poe's life, filled with insurmountable

obstacles and full of disappointments, indeed played a role in his writing. A

good comparison would be Vincent Van Gogh. He also endured hardship and died at

an early age. Poe was only forty when he passed away. Insignificant in his

lifetime, it was only after his death that he was appreciated. He is now

acclaimed as one of the greatest writers in American history. It is indeed a

pity that he will never know or care.
Get Access