Life Experiences in Edgar Allan Poe’s Short Stories and Poems

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Authors use life memories and experiences to shape their unique stories. Births, deaths, happiness, sorrow, guilt, and confusion are key themes in successful writers’ stories. When authors experience a significant situation in their life, they turn to writing and express what they were feeling to touch the reader. Edgar Allan Poe wrote gothic and detective literature, including The Black Cat, Raven and the Tell Tale Heart.

Edgar’s life was tough when he was three his birth mother died of tuberculosis, which was a common, deadly disease in the 1800s. He was split from his siblings and adopted by one of his mother’s close friends, the Allans. Later his step mother died of tuberculosis, leaving him with his heartless step father. Death after death tuberculosis swallowed each and everyone one of his loved ones. After all of Edgars losses he brought a dark, evil, viscous cloud over him for his entire life. Poe’s life experiences are a central theme that is mirrored in his short stories and poems.

All the lives that tuberculosis took from Poe’s loved ones, led him to major guilt that he couldn’t save them or afford medical care. In the Raven the narrator feels guilty for not being able to save Lenore, his deceased loved wife. Edgar Allan Poe shows the narrator’s struggle with guilt throughout his poem The Raven. “Sir, said I, or madam, truly your forgiveness I implore.” (Raven, Stanza 4) In this quote the narrator is apologizing to the visitor before he even gets to the door. The narrator is pleading for forgiveness. He is pleading for forgiveness because he couldn’t keep Lenore alive and he is feeling guilt that he couldn’t have done more. He is struggling that Lenore is gone and will never come back.

In the black cat the narrator loses control because of his alcohol abuse problem, he ends up hanging his beloved cat because he thinks the small white spot on it are the gallows. In Edgar Allan Poe life he suffered with a severe drinking problem that could have caused his mysterious death. The narrator loses control of himself and is overcome by perverseness. “…I knew that by doing so I was committing a sin…” (Stage 2 The Black Cat)

In this quote the narrator is admitting that he is losing control by saying “ The fury of a demon possessed me.” He knew that by hanging the cat he was committing a sin because Pluto was the cat who was his best friend for so many years, he loved this cat. He knew what he was doing was wrong, but he did it anyway. The narrator continues to drink which causes him to lose all control. He knows that every drop of alcohol he drinks builds up a violent demon inside of him.

In The Tell Tale Heart the narrator kills an old man because of the film over his eye, but a huge wave of guilt causes the narrator to confess to the police. In Poe’s life he feels a huge amount of guilt for not being able to save his loved ones. The overwhelming guilt of the narrator makes it impossible for him to stay calm. “I tried how steadily I could maintain the ray upon the eye. Meantime the hellish tattoo of the heart increased,it was growing quicker and quicker, louder and louder and louder every instant. The old man’s terror must have been so extreme… so strange a noise as this excited me to uncontrollable terror.” (The Tell Tale Heart Pg. 139)

The narrator thinks that the noise that is growing louder and faster is coming from the old man’s heart. Later in the story the narrator says “…a noise as this excited me to uncontrollable terror.” (The Tell Tale Heart Pg. 139) The narrator says this because he is experiencing all the stages and emotions of guilt. Guilt causes nervousness causes quick breathing and a faster, louder beating heart caused “uncontrollable terror.” The narrator knows that by killing the old man, he was committing a horrifying sin causing him the miserable feeling of guilt.

Poe uses his real life experiences to develop the character and their actions. The narrator’s included in Poe’s stories posses insane or unfortunate lives and background similar to Poe’s. They transform throughout the course of the stories or poems, and eventually show similar problems and experiences that Poe did. Their experiences throughout their lives somehow relate to Poe’s, which makes the reader desire to read on and learn more about the author. Numerous authors use these personal experiences throughout their text to influence their writing.


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Life Experiences in Edgar Allan Poe’s Short Stories and Poems. (2021, Feb 28). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/life-experiences-in-edgar-allan-poes-short-stories-and-poems/

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