Edgar Allen Poe is considered the father of the modern mystery novel as well as a premier short story writer and poet. While it may not be “CSI”, his novella “Murders in the Rue Morgue” also discussed rudimentary forensics with detectives discovering that hair left on the murder victims is not human. Not bad for a guy born almost 200 years ago. Poe was the son of an actress, born in Boston in 1809. He attended the University of Virginia after being raised by the Allen family after his mother dies.
In his short life, Poe developed a drinking and drug habit (Wilson) and his love to disease. Poe lived only 40 years, but was prolific, writing some of the best-known horror short stories of all time. Most children grow up shivering to the tales of “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Pit and the Pendulum” and as adults, the equally chilling tales of “The Cask of Amontillado” and “Hop-Frog” inspire horror. His gothic writing style created horror and love with a deep atmosphere, with poems like “Annabelle Lee”.
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And, stories like “The Masque of the Red Death” are both social and historical commentary on the plight of the plague victims. His poem “The Conqueror Worm” also talks about the struggle of good versus evil. Part of the appeal of the works of Poe is that he is so diverse. Though best known for the poem “The Raven”, stories like “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” show the diversity of his abilities. The ability to write mystery stories and horror is not a given and his works gave rise to ideas that would later become the industry standard.
For example, the idea of hiding in plain sight developed out of the short story “The Purloined Letter”. The very concept of forensics was introduced in the “Rue Morgue” and Poe was also a major force in the development of the detective novel. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Poe’s life and works was that his life was marred by tragedy. His lover, a cousin, died within two years of their marriage and his mother died while he was young. His dark and tragic life is blamed and credited for his genius.
Whether his poetry can be put down to the fleeting fantasy of laudanum induced hallucinations or the words of a tortured soul, no one can say. What we can say is that Poe is one of the first truly great American writers. WORKS CITED Girando, Robert. “Welcome to PoeStories. Com” http://www. poemuseum. org/, October 29, 2007. “Poe Museum” <http://www. poemuseum. org/>, October 29, 2007. Wilson, James Southall. “Poe’s Life” http://www. poemuseum. org/poes_life/index. html, October 29, 2007.
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