Father of Mystery
Literature is something that has been changing and developing for centuries. Without the writers of the past, who were creatively expressing themselves, literature would not be what it is today. Emily Dickinson, William Wordsworth, and T.S. Elliot are just a few authors who contributed to these developments. Perhaps one of the most influential was Edgar Allan Poe.
Edgar Allan Poe’s life was not an easy one, which explains why poetry was so dark and disturbing. Poe’s father abandoned him when he was a baby, and his mother died of tuberculosis when he was only three years old. He was adopted by a couple named John and Frances Allan. Frances was very loving toward Poe, but sadly died of tuberculosis just before he went to college. Poe attended the University of Virginia, but then dropped out and enrolled at West Point. He was soon expelled and then began a life of drinking and gambling. Poe gained some credibility from his poems, stories, and book reviewing, but he never earned very much money. When Poe was 27 he then married his 13 year old cousin, only to watch her die of tuberculosis just like his mother and Frances Allan. Poe died three years later; he only lived to be 40 years old.
During Poe’s short life he wrote nearly seventy short works of fiction. He is duly credited with creating the detective story genre, and with transforming the Gothic mystery tale of the Romantic Period into the modern horror or murder stories. But he also wrote several comic and satirical pieces, literary parodies, sketches, and experimental stories, including “A Descent into the Maelstrom,” and The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym. His most famous poems, “The Raven,” “Ulalume,” “The Bells,” “The City in the Sea”, were enormously influential. A huge wave of enthusiasm and influence is what inspired Poe to write these famous poems. Most of his inspirations came from other writers of Europe during his lifetime. However, Poe also wrote three volumes of poetry during the first period of his literary career.
The short story is something that Edgar Allan Poe deserves more credit for than any other writer. Poe transformed the short story into art. He helped establish the short story by using existing and innovative elements. By doing this he revolutionized short literature, practically created the detective story, and perfected the psychological thriller. When writing short stories, Poe believed that the author had to visualize the effect that they wanted to achieve. Poe’s Works were always carefully planned out. He was always in control of his writing, so he was able to introduce literary devices and new plot elements. While writing his main concern was design and composition. He was concerned with the impact the story would have upon the reader. Poe’s desire for the reader’s entertainment and his dark, creepy, dramatic style is what has made him the father of mysteries and detective stories. Even today Poe’s short stories are read in schools and in literary circles. His literary devices and entertainment value is what has earned him a place in history.
Poe’s poems have also had a large impact on the writers of later generations. His poems including, “To Helen,” “The Raven,” “The City in the Sea,” “The Bells,” and “Annabel Lee”, are rich with musical phrases and sensuous, and sometimes frightening images. Poe was also an intelligent and witty critic who often theorized about the art of writing. Poe’s poetry also had a direct impact on southern writers. John Gould Fletcher, who was a Pulitzer Prize winning poet, was known to read and re-read Poe’s poetry since he was ten. Just as aspiring young writers of the 1950s tried to imitate William Faulkner, even earlier generations imitated aspects from Poe’s poetry. Walker Percy, who like Poe lost both his parents under traumatic circumstances, also followed the Poe tradition. Poe’s poetry uses basic themes that have endured for centuries through other writers, readers, and listeners.
Another of Poe’s contributions to literature was his theories and kinds of stories he created. Poe developed a theory of composition that he applied to both his short stories and to his poems. Its basic principle was that in a short fiction or poetry, the writer’s main goal should be to create a total psychological or spiritual effect upon the reader. The theme or plot should always be secondary to the author’s goal of a single, intense mood in the reader’s or listener’s mind. Poe also invented the prose tale, which was a prose narrative that was meant to be read in a half-hour to an hour. The prose tale is meant to keep the reader absorbed in the story until the very end, that way there wouldn’t be any breaks to disturb the effect of the story. Poe thought that all stories should be written to entertain the reader.
Today, Poe is known, read, and appreciated on the foundation of a fairly narrow body of short stories and poems, compared to many other great writers of his time. His writings offer an entry into his unique and terrifying world that is Poe’s tragic life. The total effect of all this is undeniable, and Poe himself would certainly approve. He wrote for the reader, using his own technique to reach the people of his day and to then elevate their minds and emotional reactions. Along with Mark Twain and Ernest Hemingway, Poe ranks among the foremost literary stars in the firmament of popular American culture. A century and half after his death, Poe is instantly identifiable. Poe could be called infamous in modern terms. Poe stands on his own and cannot be compared. His short stories, mysteries, and poems and remain greatly enjoyable. Poe’s legacy will continue to grow through his readings and other writers, who are still greatly inspired by him centuries later.
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