Edgar Allen Poe


Many authors have made great contributions to the world of literature. Mark Twain introduced Americans to life on the Mississippi. Thomas Hardy wrote on his pessimistic views of the Victorian Age. Another author that influenced literature is Edgar Allan Poe. Poe is known as the father of the American short story and father of the detective story. To understand the literary contributions of Edgar Allan Poe, one must look at his early life, his literary life, and a summary of two of his famous works. "Edgar Allan Poe was born in Boston'' (Inglis 505) "on January 19, 1809'' (Asselineau 409). He was born to a southern family that were in a traveling company of actors (Inglis 505). His father, David Poe, was from a Baltimore family. He was an actor by profession and a heavy drinker. Soon after Edgar Allan Poe was born, he left his family. Poe's mother, Elizabeth Arnold Poe, was a widow at the age of eighteen. Two years after his birth, she died of tuberculosis (Asselineau 409). When his mother died, Poe was adopted by John Allan (Perry XI) at the urging of Mr. Allan's wife. In 1815, John Allan moved his family to England. While there, Poe was sent to private schools (Asselineau 410). In the spring of 1826, Poe entered the University of Virginia. There he studied Spanish, French, Italian, and Latin. He had an excellent scholastic record. He got into difficulties almost at once. Mr. Allan did not provide him with the money to pay for his fees and other necessities. Poe was confused and homesick. He learned to play cards and started drinking. Soon he was in debt in excess of two thousand dollars. Poe discovered that he could not depend upon Allan for financial support. His foster father refused to pay his debts, and Poe had to withdraw from the University (Asselineau 410). In May of 1827, Poe enlisted in the army as a common soldier. He did this under the name of Edgar A. Perry. He was stationed on Sullivan's Island in Charleston Harbor for over a year. Poe adapted very well to military discipline and quickly rose to the rank of regimental sergeant major. After a while, he got tired of the same daily routine involved in military life. Poe wrote regularly to Mr. Allan. He met with Mr. Allan after the death of Mrs. Allan in February of 1829. With Allan's support, he received his discharge and enlisted in West Point on July 1, l830 (Asselineau 410). While at West Point, Mr. Allan, who had remarried, continued in not providing Poe with enough money. Poe decided to have himself kicked out of school. Cutting classes and disregarding orders were his solutions. He was court-martialed for neglect of duties in January, 1831, and left West Point the following month (Asselineau 411). "Poe was great in three different fields , and in each one he made a reputation that would give any man a high place in literary history. Poe wrote great short stories, famous not only in his own country, but all over the world (Robinson V)." "Hawthorne, Irving, Balzac, Bierce, Crane, Hemingway and other writers have given us memorable short stories; but none has produced so great a number of famous and unforgettable examples, so many tales that continue, despite changing standards to be read and reprinted again and again throughout the world (Targ VII)." "Poe was the father of the modern short story, and the modern detective story (Targ VII)." "With the possible exception of Guy de Maupassant, no other writer is so universally known and esteemed for so large of a corpus of excellent tales as in Edgar Allan Poe (Targ VII)." In 1831, Poe succeeded in publishing a new edition of his poems entitled, Poems. Poe was now in great difficulty. He went to New York, but could find no job there. Eventually he took refuge with his aunt, Mrs. Clemm, in Baltimore. There he decided to seek employment and make his living by writing. Failing to get attention with his poems, he decided to start writing short stories. Poe competed in a contest for the best short story in 1831. The prize was offered by Phil-Saturday Courier. Because he did not win the prize, Poe started on an ambitious project. He decided to plan a series of tales told by members of a literary group.