why does poe use such complex vocabulary in his writing?

greenspun.com : LUSENET : The Work of Edgar Allan Poe : One Thread

In Poe's "The Premature Burial"(specifically) why does he use such complex vocabulary is it simply his basic vocabulary or does he write like that to expand the reader's mind?

-- Anonymous, February 24, 2002


Poe is a good communicator but he does not dumb down his thoughts. In fact his lengthy diatribes are not so important for their ideas but as to create a sense or a mood, sometimes delaying or giiving a rational break just before he careens down another grisly incident. The purpose is not to instruct the reader, but to play with and lead them on, often with a lot of teasing. Showing off? Undoubtedly. But it is highly intellectual banter and such stylishness was quite common in that century, obviously using words and structures that do not exist today. Only our most tedious novels today make pretense to flowery, excruciating and self-important complexities. For Poe they appear like spinnings of creative thought and scientific analysis punctuating an otherwise banal shock tale, granting it a respectability he pretends to scoff at.

-- Anonymous, February 27, 2002

Any expanding in which Edgar Allan Poe may or may not have engaged almost certainly involved an agent other than vocabulary and an object that, if, indeed, a mind, was doubtless not that of the reader.

I think that it is only the young and experienced writer who, when s/he writes, seeks to do more than tell a good tale. Whenever an ulterior motive exists, that motive tends to make itself felt, usually with an effect detrimental to the quality of the story.

Writers are painters in the Lascaux that is the mind; words are their pigments and and style, their brushes. I think that Poe, in "The Premature Burial", was writing in the style of a factual discourse in some high-brow journal of the day, in order to enhance the horror that he was attempting to induce within the reader's mind. He chose this style, I believe, because horrors that can strike in real life are much more terrifying than those of a fantastical nature. They can really happen, and to me and YOU! Any reader, in the days before corpses were routinely embalmed, might imagine that s/he could go to sleep one night (TONIGHT, perhaps?) and awake in a coffin buried six feet under.

The vocabulary, itself, supports the style in which Poe wrote "The Premature Burial". At a glance, it seems learned. But each word carries its own meaning, both connotation and denotation, which adds its own color to the tale. While it may be true that a reader in possession of a large vocabulary may appreciate "The Premature Burial" more deeply than a reader whose command of the language is weak, good writers almost always write primarily for their own benefit. They do the best that they can to create something fine and beautiful. The appreciation or, as you suggest, the education of the reader is of relatively minor importance.

-- Anonymous, March 02, 2002

Moderation questions? read the FAQ