Some of you may have heard of him, some of you may not. However, it is hard not to come across something he has influenced.
So why is Edgar Allen Poe so famous?
Firstly, he is said to be the inventor of detective fiction, inspiring young readers today with his portrayals of the gothic and horror genre. Secondly (and importantly for us writers), rather than to deliver a message, he believed a poem’s “first obligation is to create beauty through rhythm, rhyme, and visual imagery.” Not only are his stories eerie and terrifying, but they reach into the deepest recesses of the reader’s sub conscious and into the darkness of human nature.
His works explore the juxtaposition between madness and sanity, the dead and their power over the living, of love versus all consuming hate, as well as the inner exploration of the self. Perhaps Poe’s most famous poems include “The Raven” and “Annabel Lee”, and short stories such as “The Tell Tale Heart” and “The Murders at the Rue Morgue.” He was able to create such a variety of poetry and prose, appealing to a universal reader. They are dark, unsettling and macabre and it is hard to find another author who quite writes like he does.
Perhaps my personal favourite is “The Masque of Red Death”. It is intriguing, captivating and rich with colour and imagery. While the plague rages on in the country, Prince Prospero locks up his castle and invites guests to enjoy themselves at a grand masquerade ball, a retreat away from the death outside his walls. We are introduced to an enchanting setting, where everything is opulent, gaudy with aspects of the grotesque. Each room is a different colour, decorated with silks and damask, under the rule of the selfish Prince. Before long, the red death is revealed by the figure of an unknown masquerade character, who having brought the plague into the walls of the castle and causes Death to all present; simply vanishes into nothing.
There’s something about it that reminds me of the “Phantom of the Opera”, of which there is a similar masquerade scene…
“That which you mistake for madness is but an over acuteness of the senses.” Many of Poe’s characters profess their “sanity” despite the cruelty of their actions- actions which are strategically planned and carried out, such as in the story “The Tell Tale Heart” first published in 1843.
Ranging from melancholy to despair- there is a certain mystery that surrounds his works, and an equal mystery associated with his death in Baltimore. Yet there is no denying it, there is something haunting about his writing, something that stays with you; a long time after you have turned the last page…
Fun Fact: If anyone is familiar with the film “Holes”, you will notice there is a scene where Kate Barlow is reciting a poem to her pupil. The character of Sam overhears it and starts to quote…
“I was a child and she was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea;
But we loved with a love that was more than love-
I and my Annabel Lee-“
You got it! It’s Poe once again-
Do you have a favourite of Poe’s work? Have you seen the film adaptation called “The Raven”?