Edgar Allan Poe was an American short fiction writer who lived a life of afflictions and tragedies such as the claiming of his loved ones by tuberculosis, which then had no cure.
Tuberculosis killed many people. It speared neither his mother nor his wife. As Penguin Readers Teachers Support Program reckons, “he was one of the earliest writers to use the short story form to write many chilling horror stories in the romantic tradition” (1).
He is also widely acclaimed as the originator of detective story. Edgar Allan Poe attempted to live by just writing. However, he faced quite a lot of challenges since the proceeds raised from the works were quite less to afford a decent living coupled with acts of plagiarism.
Interpreting his literary works from the author’s context perhaps ardently reveals these challenges. Additionally, his works arguably, are profoundly inspired by his close people who succumbed mainly to tuberculosis. Consequently, his life experiences prompted him to create stories that conveyed certain themes.
The short story, X-ing a Paragraph, perhaps well portrays the Edgar Alan Poe concerns for acts of plagiarism and non-protection of written works by the Copy Right law; something that immensely impeded his success and subsequent publication of his works.
Penguin Readers Teachers Support Program notes that, in X-Ing a Paragraph “a stubborn Mr. Touch-and-Go Bullet-head…settles down to Alexander-the-great-o-nopolis, where he opens the Nopolis Teapot, a newspaper” (2).
Right from the very first article, he enormously attacks the editor of a local daily newspaper, namely John smith, criticizing over usage of the letter “O” in his publications. In an attempt to show Mr. Smith how skillful he is in writing, Mr. Bullet- head finds himself overusing the letter “O” again. Before he prints the article, Bob discovers that Os were widely missing in the boxes.
However, his boss directs him to print the article in some way. Unfortunately, as Penguin Readers Teachers Support Program puts it, “Following the printer’s tradition, he replaces all Os with Xs”…making the article unreadable, which leads the population to believe that there was something devilish in it” (2). The angry mob tries to find me Mr. Bullet-head. Unfortunately, he ends up to have vanished.
Arguably, the theme of X-ing a Paragraph reflects on the Edgar Alan Poe’s experience in his writing career life. Congruent with this argument, Penguin Readers Teachers Support Program lament, “although Edgar Alan Poe is known for his tales of horror and mystery, X-ing a Paragraph is a sharp satire on newspapers, their editors and gullibility of their readers” (3). This argument largely has some substance especially bearing in mind that Edgar Alan Poe’s work had faced hefty criticisms.
For instance, Neimeyer claims how an anonymous critic suggested that works were unsuitable for the then readers in that they were “below the average of newspaper trash… wild, unmeaning, pointless, aimless…without anything of elevated fancy or praiseworthy humor” (207). Other critics such as Alexandra’s weekly massager commended the author’s creativity and cute use of his power of imagination and incredible powerful level of intellectualism while developing his literary works.
Considering these two commentaries of his literary works, some, levels of mixed criticisms appears just like there was confusions the usage of the Os and Xs in the X-ing a Paragraph. In this context, the theme of the X-ing a Paragraph, widely reflects on the author’s experiences in the writing career.
Horror and mystery were part of the Edgar Alan Poe life. He only attended the university for one semester and then dropped due to financial difficulties. Orphaned at a tender age, he attempted to join the army at the capacity of cadet but failed. Later, he left the people who took care of him, John and Frances Allan, to join the world of uncertainties. Therefore, it is not by coincidence that some of his works reflects terror and misery themes. Such works include The Black Cat amongst others.
Edgar Alan Poe’s literary works appear in three categories, with each category perhaps presenting the various phases of life experiences. Poe fell in love at an early age as sixteen with Elmira Royster. He engaged her despite the lack of parental consent.
Coincidentally, he dedicated his first wave of writing to themes of innocence and beauty coupled with “Love and Joy as dynamic life values in the poet’s feeling for the potentiality of the harmony of mind with nature, of the “soul” with “God” or the universal ‘Ens’” (Cornelius 5). This first category, between1827 to 1831, possessed impeccable romantic myths tantamount to the memoirs of paradise or perhaps if anything less than that, Eden. Edgar Alan Poe’s mother died when he was quite young.
The tragedy left him under foster care. Reflections of pain and loss of the close relatives arguably are evident in his publications of the 1831 to 1841 decade. In this end, Cornelius laments, “a radical change was reflected in poems and tales on the theme of death as finality in a cosmic void of darkness and silence” (13). Though not predicted, state of desperation associated with loss of loved ones in this generation of his literal works, were to turn around and afflict his life again when he lost his wife who he treasured so much in 1847.
Additionally, his works introspects critically the theme of love and hatred. Among the stories in which he ardently addresses hatred and love include William Wilson and Tell-Tale Heart. He looks at the two opposite emotions as complex in nature with deferring psychological impacts especially in the way they serve to blend with each other.
With regard to William Wilson and Tell-Tale Heart, hatred and love stand out as universal realities. It is impossible to separate one from the other. As a way of example, in Tell-Tale Heart, Edgar Alan Poe admits loving a man who he, in turn, murders violently. He presents a paradox between the early men that he loves to the dead man that he hates him.
Arguably, one might extend this paradox to the experiences of Edgar Alan Poe, which were full of instances of happiness. This is evident when he falls in love at sixteen, as well as the instances when he suffers psychologically from the loss of his loved ones where he feels as if the world hates him most.
Edgar Alan Poe was a poet right from his birth. His life experiences provide him with the vital tools for use in the development of his talent.
As Bits and pieces II comment, “He Delights in the wild and visionary, his mind penetrates the inmost recesses of the human soul, creating vast and magnificent dreams, eloquent fancies and terrible mysteries” (Para 10). His life encounters blends well with the recurring themes of horror in his vast literal works, about seventy of them. The Black Cat is one of the stories that bring out the themes of horror and misery.
Much similar to The Tell-Tale Heart, The Black Cat deploys the madness decent of the narrator. Right from the start of the story, he asserts that he is sane despite acknowledging that the tale that he is about to narrate is predominantly wild. The story does not just dwell on the preconceived narrator’s state of mind. It brings into the attention the likely cause of this mental state. The author contented that alcoholism had immensely contributed to this state of mind.
Alcoholism interfered with the manner in which the narrator conceived and grasped realities, as it produced swings of his mood. The cat, consequently, serves almost the same purpose like alcohol in that it interferes with the dynamics characterizing the plot development of the story. The incorporation of alcohol and its associated repercussions is somewhat significant in terms of reflection of the author’s life encounters in the themes of his works.
In fact, Edgar Allan Poe involved himself in the abuse of alcohol especially when he experienced challenges in his life. Perhaps congruent with this proposition, majority of his biographies contend that Edgar Allan Poe could have died of alcohol poisoning in Baltimore. However, others claim based on the impossibility of determining the actual cause of his death. They associate it with afflictions by deleterious effects arising from overconsumption of alcohol.
Conclusively, based on the expositions put forth in the paper, it suffices to declare the life experiences of playwrights and filmmakers the chief determinants of most of the themes they feature in their works. Poe is not an exception.
The paper has pointed out how the situation on the ground contributed towards the many themes: horror and misery, academic crimes, and financial challenges amongst others that are present in his works. Otherwise, Poe’s provides an informative piece of mastery that reflects the life he encountered right from his childhood.
Bits and Pieces II. Selected Quotations about Edgar Allan Poe, 2010. Web. 16 Oct. 2010.
Cornelius, Kay. Bloom’s BioCritiques: Edgar Allan. Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers, 2002. Print.
Neimeyer, Mark. Poe and Popular Culture collected in the Cambridge Companion to Edgar Allan Poe. London: Cambridge University Press, 2002. Print.
Penguin Readers Teachers Support Program. Outstanding Short Stories, 2008. Web. 25 Nov. 2011.