Edgar Allan Poe: The 19th Century's Most Influential Writer - Free Essay, Term Paper Example (2023)

Edgar Allan Poe is considered as one of the most influential writers from the 19th century. He specialized in poetry and short stories, which continue to interest scholars in the field of literature to date. Edgar Allan Poe was born on 19th January 1809 in Boston, to Elizabeth Arnold (Quinn 1). Not much information is available about Elizabeth Arnold or any other line of Poe's ancestry other than the fact that her life revolved around the theatre. However, her son's life would take a different path as he developed into one of the most recognized writers of his generation. Some of his well-known works include The Raven, The Cask of Amontillado, Gold Bug, Philosophy of Composition, and The Bell. Poe's literature was primarily influenced by his life experiences. But Poe's literary career extended beyond short stories, poems, and novels. According to the University of Virginia Library, "Poe made his living as a literary critic, as an editor of the Southern Literary Messenger, and as a writer" (par. 1). As a writer, he was so good at it that he has been described as "the father of the detective novel" (par.1). His stories explored the shadowy areas of the human mind and have inspired many artists and illustrators such as Edouard Manet and Arthur Rackham (University of Virginia Library, Online Exhibits, par.3). As a result, some scholars have dedicated their lives to decoding Poe's literature in the context of his life, to interpret his writings. For this research, the focus will be on The Murders in the Rue Morgue and Lenore, as two of his lesser-known literary works, and interpret them in the context of his life.

Edgar Allan Poe: The 19th Century's Most Influential Writer - Free Essay, Term Paper Example (1)

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Murder in the Rue Morgue is a short story that was first published in 1841 in Graham's Magazine. It is one of his detective stories that revolve around a character named Augustine Duplin, who is a brilliant detective in Paris that sets out to prove the innocence of his friend. Dupin's friend had been arrested by the Paris police for the gruesome murder of mother and daughter. In his quest, Duplin manages to uncover some vital evidence that had previously gone unnoticed. He reveals that the whole thing is, in fact, not a murder since the two women were killed by a willed animal called Orangutan. The story was one of Poe's earliest detective stories and gained huge acclamation. But to Poe, Murder in the Rue Morgue might have been more than just another story.

For a start, death was a common theme in Poe's stories and other literary works. One might argue that it was because of his interest in a detective story, but there is considerable evidence to suggest there was more to it than that. It is well known that Poe lost his mother at a young age, but it is the nature of the death that might give clues into the context of deaths in Poe's literary works. Not much has been documented about the kind of Elizabeth Arnold's death, but it evident that she died under "distinctly miserable circumstances" (Quinn 1). That suggests that the nature of Arnold's death is not one that a person would wish for. The exact cause of Elizabeth's death remains a mystery. According to Quinn, Elizabeth got ill around November of 1811. She would die a month later in her bed, surrounded by her family (Quinn 44-45). Poe had to watch his mother go through the ordeal helplessly, and there was nothing he could do to save her.

Both Murder in the Rue Morgue and Lenore, have unpleasant deaths for their victims. This is as a result of the nature of his mother's death. Although Poe was too young at the time to contemplate death itself, leave alone the kind of someone's death, he must have been told about it by John and Frances Allan, who were the people that took him in after his mother's death (Whalen 36). There is proof that John and Frances Allan were not unrelated to Elizabeth or at least had never been acquitted as Hayes repeatedly refers to them as "foster parents." (5). However, he might have found out about the nature of his parent's death later in life. As for Poe's father, he also began his career in the theatre as a comedian. However, his family highly disapproved of his career path, and that can be seen in one of the letters that he wrote (Quinn 34). Based on Quinn, David Poe's presence in Elizabeth's life and that of Edgar started to become shaky around 1810 (39-40). A year after the birth of Edgar.

It is also worth noting, the victims in his stories and poems are mostly women, which further reinforces this context. Not to deny that there are elements of cultural perspective influencing his stories. Women are generally perceived as more vulnerable and susceptible to acts of crime, such as murder, even though most of the crime victims are men (CBS). Therefore, his stories may reinforce society's stereotype of perceiving women as victims of crime because they make for easier targets. Although it is not clear whether his mother was a victim of crime, the fact that he kept portraying women as victims in his literary works had a lot to do with his personal experience as well as the perception and culture of the society he was living in. But the suffering of women in Poe's life wasn't only confined to his mother. Poe also had to watch his foster mother, Francis Allan, suffer and his wife, Virginia, suffer and die of Tuberculosis (Poetry Foundation par.3). Once again, Poe had to watch as two women in his life suffer helplessly, with him having no way to help them.

But Poe's use of women in his works of literature extends beyond vulnerability. There is also a sense of beauty that is ever-present throughout his stories. In Lenora, the main character is portrayed as very beautiful. Such a portrayal would have been less impactful if Poe had decided to use a man in her place. Society perceives women as representations of beauty, and it is easier to convey the message related to beauty if the writer uses the character of a woman. The use of beauty resonates with Poe's obsession with the concept. Poe's literary works show his obsession with beauty as he even displayed the same tendencies in The Gold Bug (Smyth 68). The murder of the women represents a beautiful thing that is destroyed through murder, by an ugly person or thing, as is the case in Murder in the Rue Morgue. They resonate with death, which appears and ruins a beautiful thing, such as the relationship he had with his mother and his wife.

Unlike Murder in the Rue Morgue, Lenore doesn't have the dark theme of a gruesome murder. Both victims in the two stories were victims of crime, but Lenore is more interested in reflecting on the death of the young lady rather than finding the killer. As a poem, it is expected that Lenore would adopt a different writing style as compared to other short stories, but there are still Poe's signature techniques in literary work. The poem has at least two separate speakers, and Poe made sure to emphasize the differences in tone between the different speakers. The author combined the short lines into iambic heptameter, which made them sound and look dignified.

Regardless of the type of literary work written by Edgar Poe, there was always that sense of mystery and puzzle. The main character encounters a series of puzzles that he has to solve to get to the truth in detective works. In Lenore, there is also the mystery of the killer. According to Lenore's lover, the motive is their hate for her pride. Regardless of the reason, the author wanted to create suspense among his readers. Almost the same uncertainty that surrounded the disappearance of his father. Approximately one year after his birth, his father's presence begins to fade, and by the time his mother of tuberculosis he is no longer present in Poe's life (Quinn 46).

The mystery surrounding David Poe's disappearance is also present in some of Poe's literary works. For example, in Murder in the Rue Morgue, the detective is obligated to take part in the case because of his friend. The situation is the opposite of Poe's life should have been like after the death of his mother. After his mother's death, he expected his father to take them in and raise them because that is his obligation. Instead, Poe and his sister are separated because they were taken in by total strangers. It is not clear whether his father was still alive at that point, but as a child, he had no way of knowing whether he was still alive or not. Alternatively, there were his uncles and aunts from his father's side whom Poe would have at least expected them to show up and swoop them from their mystery. Unfortunately, they never did, and Dupin's response to his friend's call is a way for him to try and create an alternate version of reality for what was supposed to happen at that moment. There is also a similar scenario in Lenora.

In Lenora, Guy de Vere is distorted with the passing of his lover. Poe's life is relevant to Lenore through Guy de Vere. The dead woman represents his mother, who had fallen in love with David Poe. Guy de Vere's reaction to his lover's death is how his mother's death should have been received. There was no one to moan his mother's death other than his sister and him. Only the local newspaper recognized her for her contribution to theatre work in the city (Quinn 46). As for his father, he was nowhere to be seen. But that is not the only context in which Lenora exists. There is also the context where Guy de Vere is Edgar himself. The words of Guy de Vere are those Edgar as he expresses his frustrations towards everyone else for loving his mother's talent but failing to come to her rescue when she was struggling with finances. The family had developed monetary problems after the birth of Poe, something that might have contributed to pushing Poe's father away.

But Poe's family influence wasn't only limited to his biological family. His foster father, John Allan, significantly influenced his literary works. John Allan was a successful exporter, who, despite having a stable relationship with Poe, during his childhood, he never legally adopted him (Poetry Foundation par.2). That failure to legally adopt him prevented Poe from inheriting any of Allan's wealth after he died. Poe was financially struggling at the time, and he could have benefitted from such an inheritance. In perspective, that part of Poe's life sounds a lot similar to the situation described by Guy de Vere in Lenore. Those who loved Lenore's money but despised her pride are similar to John Allan, who might have liked the idea of having a son, but wasn't subscribed to Edgar as a son. There is no doubt that Allan did not appreciate the fact that Edgar wasn't his biological son. Once again, Poe's life becomes relevant in one of his literary works.


From examining Edgar Poe's Murder in the Rue Morgue and Lenore, there is plenty of relationship between Poe's life experiences and the context of these stories. Like most writer's Poe's literary career was influenced by his past and present. Sadly, the dark theme that is present in his stories is also currently in his life. His life is a tale of death and tragedy, and that defined most of the writing career. He failed to maintain any long-term romantic relationships, as well as familial and friendships at the time of his death. Regardless of the failures in his life, there is little doubt about his literary prowess. His works have continued to be read and used for teaching literature for over a century. Hence cementing his place as a pioneer of the modern psychological tale (University of Virginia Library, "Online Exhibits" par.2)

Works Cited

CBS. Fewer Women than Men Fall Victim to Violence, CBS Home, 2019, https://www.cbs.nl/en-gb/news/2018/51/fewer-women-than-men-fall-victim-to-violence Accessed 18th April. 2020.

Hayes, Kevin J, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Edgar Allan Poe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003. Print.

Poetry Foundation. "Edgar...

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