The Genius of Edgar Allan Poe
Edgar Allan Poe remains today one of the most unique figures in American literary history. Critics have likened him to both Leonardo Da Vinci and the "Jingle Man" ; either the keystone of American literature or simply a writer of fashionable entertainment. As a person and a writer, Poe is also a collection of contradictions. One thing is for certain, few people have left a more lasting impression in the minds of readers than Poe. Subsequent authors have never been able to improve upon the style which Poe created and mastered. Poe's tales have transcended generations of American readers and lasted through many shifts in literary thinking. One of the few things that is as strange and unique as Poe's writings is the man himself. Poe created his unique, strange, and unsettling tales by testing the limits of the soul , walking the line between higher understanding and insanity.
A Redeemed Childhood
Edgar Allan Poe was born in 1809 in Baltimore, Maryland to two young actors named Eliza Arnold Hopkins and David Poe. When Poe was nearly three years old, his mother died from tuberculosis. This had a profound effect on the young Poe, who "always remembered -more or less unconsciously - his mother vomiting blood and being carried away from him forever by sinister men in black," according to Roger Asselineau, professor of American literature at the Sorbonne, Paris. Within a number of days, David Poe, who was known to be an alcoholic, disappeared. Although he was never found, it is assumed that he ran off rather than died.
Fortunately, the young Edgar was taken in by John and Frances Allan of Richmond, Virginia, where Poe was with his family when his mother died. John Allan was a successful business man who had also been adopted. The Allans were childless, and although they never formally adopted Edgar, they raised him as if he was their own son. When Edgar was six years old, the Allans moved to England because of John's business ventures. They enrolled Poe in the Manor House School at Stoke Newington, which he later used as the setting of his short story "William Wilson." As a child, Edgar was described as smart and athletic; and because of this both of his parents adored him, especially his mother.
Edgar's picturesque family life started to deteriorate as he reached puberty. While attending private schooling, Poe often felt inferior to the other kids because of his meager past. The young Poe was very athletic and liked to run, box, and play other sports, but was exceedingly unsociable towards his peers, and because of this they often rejected him. In addition, Poe's special affection towards his foster mother caused problems for the adolescent child. As was with his natural mother, Edgar felt much closer to his new mother than his new father. While it is not clear whether Edgar had an Oedipal complex, his affection for his mother did result in tension with his father John. The young Poe...