“Doubting, Here, the reader will find only an
“Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortals ever dared to dream before.
” The writer of these words was enchanted by darkness…
thrilled by death.What sort of person would spend their whole life linking hands with Deathand her counterparts? Quite possibly a literary genius by the name of EdgarAllan Poe. Famous for romanticizing the darker, more Gothic side of life, E.A. Poe had quite a collection of works from his lesser known stories to hismost famous poem, “The Raven”.This great man’s life has been analyzed todeath (no pun intended) to find key’s to unlock the maze of his apparentcreativity.
Here, the reader will find only an in depth look at “The Raven”,information on the author’s life and lifestyle, a brief look at other Poeworks, criticism on his writings, and some unusual ways his fame has beenhonored . To begin with, “The Raven” holds a dark sense of elegance whichhas been appealing to many since it was written in 1845. The theme of “The Raven” is simple: a man suffering the loss of hislove is visited by a speaking raven, whose repetitious, meaningless answerstorture him to the point of insanity (see Appendix R) (Decoder, Internet). The feeling of lost love portrayed in the poem might have reflected thedeath of Poe’s wife, Virginia, in 1847 (Qrisse, Internet).
As it is read, adefinite rhyme scheme is present: internal rhyme in the first and third line,and end rhymes in lines two, four, and five. All eighteen stanzas of the poemare arranged like this, but Poe never makes it seems unexciting orrepetitious. Probably the most noticeable and most brilliant aspect of “TheRaven” is it’s saturation of symbolism. The raven (see Appendix R) itself isthe main symbol, representing the man’s self-torture uncovered in the work. Because the raven does not comprehend or reason it’s answers, it allows theman to interpret them however his mind allows, which gives the reader a lookat the mind’s unstable mind state. The bust of Pallas that the raven perchesupon to preach its “wisdom” is another strong symbol.
Pallas is the goddessof wisdom, and an eerie feeling is felt as the raven sits upon it and appearsto speak nonsense. When questioned about his reasoning for using the bustof Pallas in his poem, Poe replied because of the “sonorous of the word,Pallas, itself.” Two other symbols that are not so apparent are the use of“midnight” and “December”.
Both signify darkness, an end, or a change tosomething new. The chamber the narrator speaks from could be interpretedas a symbol, as it represents loneliness. The expensive furnishings of thechamber appear to say that the beauty and riches the man surroundshimself in will not replace his love (Qrisse, Internet).
Edgar Allan Poeentwined all these symbols in “The Raven”, a deliciously twisted poem aboutthe death of beauty and the heartache it causes.Poe lived a solitary, reckless life, which included the use of alcohol and drugs. Born in 1809 to parents, Eliza Poe and David Poe Jr., he was orphaned before the age of three. His father died at the age of 36 and his mother died at 24 from tuberculosis (Payge’s, Internet). Poe was sent live withfoster parents, John and Fanny Allan (see Appendix J).
In 1826, he enteredthe University of Virginia. He was a good student, but eventually turned togambling to pay debts. It was during this time that Poe had his firstromantic interest which ended on a harsh note (see Appendix E) Despitegrades and ambition, Poe had to leave college because of lack of money.
Ayear later he enlisted in the army for two years, after which he enteredWestpoint. Then, halting his solitary life, Edgar married his 13 year oldcousin, Virginia, in 1836. On October 5, 1849, he was found unconscious andon drugs; three days later he died, possibly of rabies (Qrisse, Internet). (see Appendix R) Edgar Allan Poe’s appearance is a suprisingly interestingtopic, one that may be addressed with some importance.
Poe was apparentlyan attractive, fit man (perhaps due to his earlier, short-lived militarycareer). He also appeared dark, drawn in, and, towards the end of his life,sickly. Poe was a small man; records showing approximately 5 feet 8 inchesin height and 140 pounds in weight. Documentation reveals that Poe’s eyeswere odd, and even a bit disturbing. Information varies whether the colorwas gray hazel, blue, or violet.
Whatever the color, his eyes commanded theattention of his face. According to Mary Star in 1888, “His eyes were largeand full, gray and piercing.” Maybe because of his regular drinking and hisindulgence in the nighttime hours, Poe’s complexion was always pale, almostto the point of translucence (Society, Internet).
Poe’s characteristic looksare a few of the things that made him a memorable person for anyonemeeting him to remember. Poe’s lifestyle was a bit of an enigma, and it was always questioned howhe manifested such dark and morbid tales. Throughout his life he had fewfriends; those he had, he didn’t rely on them.
Poe was an obvious alcoholicand a rumored heavy drug user. Suprisingly, he had a well establishedcollege career, the short time that he attended. His activities includedathletic and artistic abilities, and he was also a member of the debate club. In his later life, he used fake identities for reasons unknown. (ex.
Henri LeRennet). Answers to the mystery of Poe’s life remain untold, only his workssurvived to speak their story (Qrisse, Internet).“The Raven” is by far the work for which Edgar Allan Poe is most wellknown. However, by the time of his death, he had compiled a variety ofpoems, short stories, and other works.
Poe’s first book was titled Tamerlaneand other Poems, and it was not published under his true name. In 1832, hewon $50 for “Manuscript Found in a Bottle”, but it was hardly enough tosupport him as he waited for his other works to catch on to the public. Theshort story “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” is considered to the first realdetective story (Qrisse, Internet). Poe had the theory that all poems shouldbe written short enough to be read in one sitting, so the reader will find nopoems that are long enough to fill a small book among Poe’s works (Deocoder,Internet). (Appendix P) Other famous works by Poe are included in thefollowing list:“The Fall of the House of Usher“The Pit and The Pendulum”“The Tell-Tale Heart”“To Helen”“The Bells”“The Black Cat”“Eureka”“The Masque of the Red Death” (Gothic, Internet) (see Appendix T fordates)It is a common misconception that Poe was entirely “dark” and all ofhis works mirrored that. Poe had a humorous side which shined in some ofhis writings.
He liked to use plays on words and other small, seeminglychildish things to amuse himself, if not the audience. For example, in theshort story “The Devil in the Belfry”, there is a small town which has anobsession of the clock in its center. The town is named Vondervotteimittis(spoken aloud and the reader realizes it is heard “wonder what time it is”). Not just one or two works had a lighter side to them either. The following isa list of some of Poe’s less grave works:”Oh Tempora, Oh Mores” “Lines on Joe Locke” “Epigram for Wall Street” “Why the Little Frenchman Wears His Hand in a Sling” “Peter Pendulum: The Business Man” “The Man that was Used Up” “The Devil in the Belfry” “The Spectacles” “Some Words with a Mummy””The Angle of the Odd” For someone with so many famous works, it is understandable that heshould receive criticism, both good and bad, on his efforts, which wereknown to be inspired by Lord Byron (Qrisse, Internet). As a generalcomment, it was once said that “ Poe’s obsession was the grave..
.”(Blackness, 101), and this surfaces throughout his writing. Not necessarily acriticism to his works, but rather his train of thought, it was said, “Poe’sfantasies are strangely materialistic.
” (Blackness, 104). The darkness of hisworks was described by having “Night, who reigns supreme over his poetry.”(Blackness, 120).
In an effort to analyze “The Raven”, and Poe’s choice forthe bird, the following was written:“Ravens, that with delight feed on carrion, seem tobe remarkable types of devils, who delight preyupon souls of the dead…devils are spirits of theair. The raven by its blackness represents theprince of darkness. Sin and sorrow and death areall in the Scripture represented by darkness orthe color black, but the Devil is the father sin, amost foul wicked spirit, and the prince of deathand misery.
” (Blackness, 32)“Most of Poe’s stories have a continual motif of obsessive-compulsivebehavior” (Archetypal, Internet). This may seem to be a general statement,but upon looking at more of Poe’s works, it turns out to be a dead onobservation. While Poe has been praised for his morbid thrillers, hisaudience has on occasion expressed dislike for the romanticizing of thedarker side of life:”Mr. Poe is too fond of the wild — unnatural andhorrible! Why will he not permit his fine genius tosoar into purer, brighter, and happier regions?Why will he not disenthral himself from the spellsof German enchantment and supernatural imagery?There is room enough for exercise of the highestpowers, upon the multiform relations of human life,without descending into the dark, mysterious andunutterable creations of licentious fancy.
” (Society, Internet)The following was once written in a letter to Poe by Elizabeth BarrettBrowning, to whom Poe had dedicated a book: “Your ‘Raven’ has produced asensation, a ‘fit horror,’ here in England. Some of my friends are taken bythe fear of it and some by the music. I hear of persons haunted by the’Nevermore,’ and one acquaintance of mine who has the misfortune ofpossessing a ‘bust of Pallas’ never can bear to look at it in the twilight.” (itmust be noted that Poe borrowed the form he used for stanzas in “TheRaven” from her.
Which brings the reader to another thought: are Poe’sworks genuinely understandable enough to make them liked? R. H. Stoddard,a journalist, commented “As a poet, Poe ranks high, although most of hispoetry is unreadable. . . . The school of literature to which Poe belongs, andof which he is certainly the master, is one that we thoroughly dislike.
”(Society, Internet) Another criticism expresses the concern (neitherpositive nor negative) of the apparent recurring themes in Poe’s works. Obvious repeated, sometimes overused, themes are the use of the eye, theheart, an un-named narrator, premature burial, a vortex, and dreams(Motifs, Internet). Probably the most accurate and non-degrading commenton Poe that sums up his work, style, and life was made by Jules Verne whenhe stated, “You might call him Poe ‘The Leader of the Cult of theUnusual’.” (Society Internet) Edgar Allan Poe’s work receives criticismsboth good and bad for his famous works, writing style, and lifestyle, andthere are many more not mentioned here. It is his fame that draws opinionsof his creations.Edgar Allan Poe’s fame goes far beyond having a book or twopublished. In South Carolina, Poe is honored by having a library named afterhim, named, creatively enough, The Edgar Allan Poe Library (Qrisse,Internet).
There is a museum built in his dedication which houses a statuebuilt to honor Poe and his parents. The 1994 movie “The Crow” owes, nodoubt, tribute to “The Raven’s” fame for the theme and also for quoting thenovel in the script. The National E. A. Poe Historic site was built in hishonor, as well as the Moses Ezekial Statue. Surfing the Internetsuper-highway, one will find the Edgar Awards at Mystery Writers ofAmerica, inspired by Poe.
The Raven is a brilliantly dark poem in which Poe discusses thetragicness of loss and the feelings of darkness. Poe’s life and lifestyle was aseries of events that inspired him to create all of his well acclaimed workswhich raised both positive and negative criticisms. Poe’s fame has beenhonored in various ways throughout time, whether for the good or the bad.The readers can only be certain Poe and his works will be forgotten“Nevermore”.