poes life

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what happened in poe's life that made him write about death such as in the tell-tale heart and the masque of the red death

-- Anonymous, March 25, 2002



First, your question presupposes Poe wrote autobiographically and there is an excellent article at the Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore website that, quite appropriately, addresses this misconception. It can be found at http://www.eapoe.org/geninfo/poeautob.htm and I would encourage you to review it.

Of course, to suggest that Poe's life experiences had no impact on his writing is as absurd as is the contrary, but when most suggested parallels are examined in detail, they almost inevitably fall apart. While any particular Poe biography may speak to specific instances that could have provided some essence for cause and effect, it raises the question of the "chicken and the egg". Which came first, the tale or the life experience? It is amusing to note that one of Poe's most effective techniques with his tales of mystery was to first determine a conclusion and then build events that most effectively supported that conclusion. In effect, writing the story "backwards" as he called it.

There were few who lived in the period that had little experience with death and dying. Poe appears to have had more than his fill but, generally, Poe's own experiences were through the loss of a loved one and, typically, at a tragically youthful age. His mother is thought to have died from pneumonia at the age of about 24 and his wife, Virginia, from tuberculosis at the age of 25. His brother died in Baltimore from what may have been cholera at the age of 24. The point... death was not uncommon and in the larger cities, perhaps, even more common. America was in a state of uncontrolled growth and each new wave of immigrants brought yet another epidemic from Europe. Poe's familiarity with these events can be seen in his tale, "The Masque of the Red Death".

It seems that Poe wrote primarily from things he read and subjects in which he had developed an interest. Poe maintained a broad scope of interests that ranged from the fascinating to the mundane. His curiosity in mesmerism certainly precipitated some of his tales such as "Tale of the Ragged Mountains", "Mesmeric Revelation" and "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar". His interests in cryptography helped in "The Gold Bug", one of his tales of ratiocination and deductive reasoning and "The Purloined Letter". Another curious interest was his seeming fascination with phrenology for a time that, by some measure, appears connected with his tales of madness. This was a science of the time, since discredited, that taught that all human behavior, moods and emotions were governed by specific regions of the brain. See his "The Imp of the Perverse".

In April 1840, Poe wrote a short piece for Alexander's Weekly Messenger titled "The Trial of James Wood". It was a commentary piece that spoke to the trial of a local man that had murdered his daughter and, upon return of the jury from deliberation, was judged "Not guilty on the reason of insanity." Poe goes on to illustrate an alternate view in light of the curious behavior of Mr. Wood prior to the murder that would imply pre-meditated action and, thus, guilt. He ends the piece with the observation that although society was safe from Mr. Wood for a time during his rehabilitation in an asylum, once satisfied of his return to lucidity, the Court would set him free. Poe's final observation reads, "His monomania is essentially periodical; and a perfect sanity for months, or even for years, would scarcely be a sufficient guaranty for his subsequent conduct. A time would still come when there would be laid to his charge another-- although hardly a more horrible deed of sudden violence and bloodshed."

I do not suggest that this single piece was the genesis of all his tales of madness or murder but I do believe it is an single indication of his thoughts on the subject and his interest in the psychosis of man. Poe was a master at and seemed to love mixing known or accepted facts with partial truths to generate a good story. His strange tale of arresting the progress of death by hypnotizing a dying man was picked up in England and reprinted as an actual case. Poe was quite the prankster... who said he didn't have a sense of humor.

Best Regards,

-- Anonymous, March 25, 2002

In regards to your question there is a misconsumption on what can be found on http://www.eapoe.org/geninfol/poeautob.htm. your question was clearly obserd and the answers have clearly stated that. best regards next time keep trying! -PTF

-- Anonymous, November 02, 2002

can you send me a poem on flower because i have to write a free verse poem and it is for home work

-- Anonymous, April 24, 2003

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