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The Tormented Genius Of Edgar Allan Poe

2141 words - 9 pages

It has been said that one cannot be truly great till they have experienced hardship. This, perhaps, is the reason that Edgar Allan Poe is thought to be one of the greatest story tellers in all of history. His life was not sprinkled with tragedy, but completely drowned in it. From the beginning of Poe’s life till the very end, he was, according to The Haunted Man by Phillip Lindsay, “born to live in nightmares” and that Poe’s life “might [as] well have been one of [Poe’s] own creations (Lindsay 2).” Death, hardship, and betrayal followed him wherever he travelled, causing him to become a depressed alcoholic along the way. It is widely believed by literary critics that “had he not been this tortured creature seeking a coffin for a bridal-couch he would not have written the extraordinary and sometimes great tales that he did write (Lindsay 2).” Poe’s traumatic experiences with death, disease, and the people around him helped to shape two of his most famous stories: “The Masque of the Red Death” and “The Fall of the House of Usher”
In Poe’s story “The Masque of the Red Death”, the characters cannot escape death, no matter how hard they try, in the same way that Poe and the people he loved could not escape. In the story, the prince Prospero’s kingdom is overwhelmed with “the red death”, much like Poe’s life was ravaged by tuberculosis. The prince attempts to lock out the disease by hiding away in his castle, avoiding it for several months, only to still be claimed by it at the end, brought in by an unwelcomed guest. Likewise, When Poe’s wife Virginia was in the worst of her sickness, they moved, hiding away in warmer weather with the vain hope that she would somehow survive. The red death is a disease much like tuberculosis in its symptoms. He describes the symptoms as “sharp pains, and sudden dizziness, and then profuse bleeding at the pores,” all of which are common with active TB, a disease he was more than familiar with. Along with his mother, his beloved wife Virginia was also stricken with the tuberculosis. The all too real pain of Virginia’s death appeared through the story, heavily in the first paragraph. James Hutchisson, the author of POE describes the passage as being “awash in blood,” pointing out that the words “red” “blood” or “bloody” were used six times in six different sentences in the first paragraph alone (Hutchisson 139). The prince’s death also signifies Poe’s belief that one cannot hide from death. In a critical essay by David R Dudley, he argues that “mortality was terrifying for Poe because death resists all cognition and ends all communication” and that “Prospero, much like Poe, tries to control death by fitting it into his own work (Dudley).” Prospero tries to block it out with his masquerade and red and black room, Poe controls it with his stories and poems; however, both fear death and both succumb to death eventually. In the opinion of Charles E. May, author of “Edgar Allan Poe: A Study of the Short Fiction,” Prospero...

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