Man's Need For Woman in the Works of Edgar Allen Poe
In the beginning, there was Adam. Adam felt incomplete in the Garden of Eden and needed a companion. Eve was created and Adam had his woman. Edgar Allen Poe experimented with man's eternal necessity and drew his final conclusion near the end of his literary career. With the publication of Eureka, Poe made his final realization that tied every one of his love driven short stories together and triumphantly proclaimed: "I have no desire to live since I have done Eureka. I could accomplish nothing more" (n. pag.). Kenneth Graham puts it best: "For Poe, the most notable glimpse of eternity available to man is in the beauty of woman, always ephemeral, always melancholic" (2760). With this idea in mind, Poe shows the consequences of losing the love of one's life through his short stories and his poetry, and also tries to bring reason to his own troubled life. In the works of Poe, a man without his love becomes a man without the most vital part of his spirit and collapses in a horrifying manner.
"For Poe, the most notable glimpse of eternity available to man is in the beauty of woman, always ephemeral, always melancholic" (Graham 2760).
Poe's obsession with dying women stems from his own life. His mother died when he was only three. His first love, Elmira Royster was forbidden from associating with him by her father. His child-wife, Virginia, who was also his cousin, died at the age of 24. Just when he found Elmira once again, who was by this time a widow, he died of his own health problems. These stinging losses, especially that of his mother, left a subconscious scar in his already convoluted psyche. Poe's personal history compelled him to write stories that paralleled his own life.
An important piece in Poe's repertoire of love stories is "Ligeia." Lady Ligeia is the narrator's first wife. She is "the one," his one true love. She is infinitely beautiful: "the skin rivaling the purest ivory...I regarded the sweet mouth. Here was indeed the triumph of all things heavenly...the eyes...They were, I must believe, far larger than the ordinary eyes of our own race" (Selected 27). She, however, dies of a debilitating disease and the narrator marries Lady Rowena. Rowena cannot compare with Ligeia, and Ligeia's spirit comes back to poison the new wife. The narrator does little to stop this, and he and his wife kill Rowena. On the day of her death, Ligeia's spirit enters the body of Rowena and the narrator is reunited with his lost love. The striking similarities to his own love life are well noted: "Poe had experienced the ecstasies of extreme spiritual love" (Lawrence 152). The narrator was so deeply in love with Lady Ligeia that he killed his new wife Rowena. He succumbs to a wanton act of murder, or spiritual replacement. "Ligeia" is the most famous of a series of love stories that Poe wrote, including "Morella", "Berenicë", and...