The Fascinating Edgar Allan Poe Essay

1517 words - 7 pages

Edgar Allan Poe, an often misinterpreted literary mastermind, known predominantly by his extraordinary tales of horror, forbidden love, madness, and mystery, is more than meets the eye. Though his genres of expertise may indicate otherwise, Poe was a very social person, a gentleman by trade, and he possessed more hands-on military experience than any other major American author in history. As a writer, Poe gained a great deal of his inspiration from his surroundings. His enlistment in the army contributed significantly to his repertoire, and inspired some of his greatest works, including “’The Gold Bug;’ ’The Man Who Was Used Up,’ a satire of southern frontier politics; ‘The Balloon Hoax,’ ...view middle of the document...

Edgar was adopted by John and Frances Allan of Richmond. In 1812, Poe was christened as “Edgar Allan Poe”, taking the surname of his new parents as his middle name. Three years later, the Allen family moved to England where Poe developed most of his childhood education, and was first subjected to the gothic style that appears so prominently in his prose.
In 1820, the family returned to Richmond where Poe finished his early education. After five years back in the U.S., Poe entered into a short engagement with his childhood sweetheart Sarah Elmira Royster, which was called off by her parent’s insistence. John Allan, wealthy through his inheritance, sent Poe off to the University of Virginia, in 1826, “with a concomitant refusal to supply appropriate funds” (Beidler, Soldier 332). Poe did well in college where he “impressed his teachers and fellow students with his knowledge of languages” (Minor 8) and excelled in his classes. But in an attempt to raise money, “Poe soon took up gambling . . . to pay his expenses. By the end of his first term Poe was so desperately poor that he burned his furniture to keep warm” (“Poe’s Life”). When Allan refused to pay off his debt, Poe was forced to drop out of school.
On May 26, 1827, under the alias of twenty-two-year-old Edgar A. Perry, eighteen-year-old Poe entered the U.S. Army. He was likely propelled into a ”social mix. . . of immigrants and displaced unskilled laborers, . . . a fair share of America’s ne’er do wells, petty criminals, drunkards, bankrupts, and illiterates”(Beidler, Soldier 333). Poe was a great enlisted soldier. He was recognized as such by various superior officers for his aptitude, military expertise, and decorum. This acknowledgment allowed Poe to rise quickly through the ranks to, at the time, the highest commissioned officer ranking available in the army: regimental sergeant major. Despite his quick success, after two years serving in the U.S. Army artillery, Poe began agitating for his release. After it became clear that a simple discharge from his position was not possible; Poe enrolled into the United States Military Academy at West Point in order to keep his inheritance.
At West Point, Poe was older than the other cadets and, as a former NCO (non-commissioned officer), did not take easily to the cadet-style and drills, such as “mandatory formations [and] inspections” (Beidler, Soldier 338), which, in his days as an enlisted man, he had always found ways to avoid. In class, Poe’s intellect made him a “quick study”, the coursework giving him no trouble. However, despite his intellectual prowess, the start of the second semester, and a rekindling of hostilities with Allan, marked the beginning of Poe’s downfall at West Point. The hostilities ended with Allan disowning Poe, and Poe getting himself thrown out of the Academy in spite. He was dishonorably discharged through a court martial charging him with insubordination; refusal to obey the order of a superior officer.
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