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Edgar Allan Poe

Term Definition
Edgar Allan Poe

Most of Edgar Allan Poe's works consist of fantastic or mysterious situations that are characterized by a high level of emotionalism. In a way, they can be understood as exploring the fringes of human consciousness, or the darker side of human nature that is often glossed over by conventional society. Poe died at the age of 40, possibly because of the consequences of living a life of substance abuse and general disarray. 

Dark path to mystery

Though he is most known for his dark tales of macabre and mystery, Edgar Allan Poe's lifetime accomplishments not only represented authorship, but poetry, literary criticisms, and editing work. One of the earliest practitioners of the short story, he is considered the inventor of the genre of detective fiction. In addition, he is often credited with contributing greatly to the modern science fiction genre. Poe shortly attended the University of Virginia but left after one semester due to his lack of money. He relied solely on his writing as a source of income and often found himself in debt. 

Famous Edgar Allan Poe works

Poe authored fourteen poems and eighteen tales. His more popular poems include:

Annabel Lee

The City in the Sea

A Dream Within a Dream


The Haunted Palace


The Raven

His more popular and most beloved tales include:

- The Black Cat

- The Masque of the Red Death

- The Premature Pendulum

- The Tell-Tale Heart

He also had a few other published works, including Politian, a play he wrote in 1835, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, a novel written in 1838, and essays such as The Philosophy of Composition and The Poetic Principle

Gothic fiction

Poe is most known for his work in Gothic fiction, which was popular during the time of his literary career. The majority of his work includes themes such as burial, death, and the reanimation of the dead. Poe’s stories and poems fall into the genre of dark romanticism and is considered to be a response to transcendentalism.

Though he is most well-known for horror, Poe also wrote satirical work, humor, and hoaxes. To provide the reader with what he saw as freedom from conformity, he often utilized irony and extravagance in his writing. He often tailored his writing to specifically fit the reader of the times and chose his genres carefully based on what was popular at the time. Read more about Poe's symbolism in horror novels.

A Military Officer: More than a writer

A lesser known fact about Edgar Allen Poe is that he spent some time in the United States Army. He enlisted in 1827 under the name Edgar A. Perry, saying that he was twenty two instead of eighteen. Poe served in Boston at Fort Independence the same year he released his first book of poetry. However, the book was only printed fifty times and it received little to no attention.

In November of 1827, Poe was promoted to an artificer and prepared bullet shells for artillery, doubling his monthly pay. His regiment was stationed in Charleston, South Caroline at Fort Moultrie. After serving two years and reaching the rank of Sergeant Major, he attempted to end his five-year military enlistment early. After revealing his true name and circumstances to his commanding officer, he was told that he could be discharged if he made amends with his adoptive father. His letters received no response- Poe was not even told when his adoptive mother fell ill. After she died, his father finally agreed to help Poe be discharged. After securing a replacement for the rest of his term, he was discharged on April 15 of 1829.

In early October of 1849, Poe was found wondering the streets of Boston, delirious and in need of immediate medical assistance. He died four days later on October 7 and in the days in-between was not coherent enough to explain what had happened to him. He was wearing someone else’s clothes and continuously screamed out, “Reynolds!”, though no one knew who this Reynolds was. Any official records of his death have been mysteriously lost.

Edgar Allen Poe is dark romanticism’s most famous and beloved author. Though his tales and poetry was often shrouded in mystery and death, he continues to be considered one of history’s most important authors and his contributions to the literary world will not soon be forgotten.

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