Comparison of Edgar Allan Poe’s Life and His Work

Edgar Allan Poe did not have an ordinary life; instead he lived a life of poverty, and sadness. Poe’s poetry shows quite a few parallels to his personal life. While we cannot be certain he is the speaker in the poems, the similarities lead me to believe he is.

Poe’s parents died while he was still very young. He was later adopted by a tobacco merchant named John Allan. Later when he went to university, his parents did not provide him enough money to sustain himself. In order to stay warm he was forced to burn his own furniture to keep warm. After completing university he went back to his parent’s home, where, frustrated with them, he left then to start his own life. After living in poverty, Poe went to Baltimore to track down some relatives of his first parents. In Baltimore he found his Aunt, Maria Clemm, and her daughter Virginia, who he later married. After their marriage the couple went to New York where Poe tried to start his own magazine, and later moved to a cottage in the country. Where his wife Virginia died (age 24) from tuberculosis.

His poetry all seem to reflect some general themes, such as declining health of his wife, the cause of her death, or his emotions. In his poem Annabel Lee the subject, Annabel Lee dies from the wind which chills her. “That the wind came out of the cloud by night,/Chilling and Killing my Annabel Lee.” (Lines 25, and 26) This quote represents how the transfer of a cold from one person to another, the wind represents someone coughing on Annabel, and the cloud represents a person. The cold then chills and eventually kills Annabel. Poe’s wife died from TB or tuberculosis, which spreads from another person through coughing, and has cold like symptoms. In the Haunted Palace everything starts off nice, and joyful, much like how newlyweds might be, however the poem progresses and the palace becomes a very dark place. On line 3 the palace was once a fair and stately palace, which might be foreshadowing of what is to come [good!]. At the start the palace has “Banners yellow, glorious and golden,” (Line 9), and “Spirits moving musically,/To a lute’s well-tuned law,”(Line 20). However near the end of the poem it degrades to a place being assailed by “evil things, in robes of sorrow” (Line 33, and 34) assail the monarch’s high estate. The estate could represent his wife Virginia. I feel the Haunted Palace, represents the decline of his wife’s health, to the point where “A hideous throng rush out forever/And laugh-but smile no more.” her soul leaves her body forever (the throng rush) and she cannot laugh because she has died, and while dying she smiled a final time, leaving her locked in a smile.

Finally in The Raven, the speaker has a raven enter his room. When the speaker tries to ask the Raven a question, the only answer he gets is “Nevermore”. I feel this represents how once a person has died they cannot talk ever more. The Raven also never leaves the room, he stays “Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door-” (Line 41), much like how the burden of someone you loved dying will stay in your mind.

I believe that if Poe is not the speaker his poems were written to reflect his own personal life. After seeing parallels in all three of his poems, I think its safe to say he used his strange life as inspiration for his writing, which may be why he is regarded as such as strange person.

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