Death and Betrayal in Poe's Life
Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) was born to traveling actors in Boston. He was hit hard with death at a young age as his mother and father both died within two days when Poe was only two years old. The wealthy John Allan and his wife became the legal guardians of young Edgar. When Edgar was fourteen, he met the first woman in his life, Jane Stith Stanard, the inspiration to his poem “To Helen”(1831). However, Mrs. Stanard passed away only a year after Poe first met her. In 1825 Poe became engaged with Elmira Royster. While he was away from her, he would write her many letters; however, Elmira’s parents intercepted the letters. Edgar wondered why she never replied, and when he went back to see her, he found out that she married someone else. This left Poe in a very depressed state. Poe’s relationship with the Allans was never secure, and this became evident when John Allan refused to pay Edgar’s debts at the University of Virginia. Edgar was then kicked out of school. In the next couple of years Poe has to fight through the death of his foster mother and his brother. Then in 1833 he moved in with his Aunt Maria Clemm. John Allan died a year later. He then married his cousin Virginia three years later. Virginia then died in 1842 (Anderson 9-64). Poe was introduced to death and betrayal throughout his young life leaving him in a very depressed state, and these traits are present throughout his short stories and poems.
Edgar Allan Poe’s life had a lot to do with his madness in his writings. This is present in Poe’s short story “The Black Cat”(1843). “On the night of the day on which this most cruel deed was done, I was aroused from sleep by the cry of fire. The curtains of my bed were in flames. The whole house was blazing..” “The destruction was complete. My entire worldly wealth was swallowed up, and I resigned myself thenceforward to despair” (The Black Cat 225). This excerpt from “The Black Cat” typified Poe’s life. His life was a total destruction. While Poe was an adult, he said that the fire that destroyed the Richmond Theater and killed seventy-two people also took the lives of his parents (Anderson 11-12). However, this is not true as his mother died of tuberculosis and his father abandoned his family and his death is unknown. Poe is thought to have said this primarily because this elucidation brings forth a “dramatic light” (Anderson 12) on his younger years (Anderson 12). The fire also symbolizes “complete moral disintegration” (Gargano 91). The only thing left after the fire was the wall with the “portraiture” (Gargano 91) of Pluto. The only thing that survived the conflagration would bedevil him by his “ineradicable sin against his own nature” (Gargano 91). In Edgar Allan Poe’s life everything that made him happy would be destroyed mostly from death.
As an adult Poe is thought to have been impotent. The hanging of the cat in “The Black Cat” is used to symbolize the...