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Edgar Allan Poe: Influence in Horror and Poetry Itself

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Edgar Allan Poe was an American writer, editor, and literary critic who was best known for his poetry and short stories which was mainly his take on mystery and horror. Poe was born on January 19, 1809, in Boston, Massachusetts and was the second child of two actors. His father abandoned the family and his mother died the following year. Being orphaned he was taken in by John and Francis Allan where he lived out his days being a neglected child and being apart of many military activities and schools but eventually failing on being a cadet at West Point. Poe was an extraordinary and influential writer around the world. His use of literary devices, being an influential author amongst many famous modern authors and writers all the while inspiring an art movement, “Art for Art’s Sake”, and a close analysis of “The Black Cat” that helps define horror. 

Poe was famously known for his use of literary devices in his short stories and poetry. Varying from foreshadowing, dramatic irony, and many more like alliteration and repetition. His use of foreshadowing in “The Cask of Amontillado” to shows Fortunato’s troubling adventure which eventually led him to his death. He also uses dramatic irony (when the character thinks something is true but the audience of the story knows the real truth) in “The Cask of Amontillado” showing that Fortunato was not aware of what was going to happen to him in the catacombs. His use of alliteration, rhyme, onomatopoeia, assonance, and repetition in the poem “The Raven” assists the reader by providing them with this melodic nature and a visual setting of his gothic representation. “While I pondered weak and weary” being an alliteration and the “TAP TAP TAP” of the Raven is an example of an onomatopoeia. Poe’s repetition of the word “Nevermore” after every verse in the poem leaves the reader feeling his sadness thus creating this tone for the entire poem. 

Poe was a master of Symbolism and uses it to the best of its ability in every one of his work. In the story “The Pit and the Pendulum”, there are multiple examples of symbolism. The pit represents hell and he was once able to escape but the walls pushed him back into the pit. The pendulum represents how impossible it is to stop time and it swings to the rhythm of the narrator’s heart beat. In “The Raven”, the raven itself enters the room with an assertive manner always being a constant reminder of death. The Bust of Pallas symbolizes Pallas Athena, Greek goddess of wisdom where the raven lands and perch itself on. It shows that the Raven has such wisdom just like the Greek goddess. Anadiplosis is used when the last word or words in a sentence is used as the first word or words in the next sentence. Poe uses this really well in “The Pit and the Pendulum”. He writes “…That I could not force my imagination to regard as unreal. Unreal-even while I breathed..” and “For the moment at last, I was free. Free and in the grasp of the inquisition…”. The literary device offers a more dramatic and enhances the effect of the situation the narrator was in. 

Edgar Allan Poe’s story “The Black Cat” is a story of pure horror and uses shock to pull in the reader’s attention. With many themes varying from violence, alcoholism, and his remorse for his actions. The story is being told in the first-person point of view and at the beginning of the story the narrator shows the reader that his home was going well. Being a young newlywed couple with similar interests in animals while having plenty of them. Unfortunately this is a Poe story and things go horribly wrong. The home scene quickly shifts to a scene of a domestic abusive relationship and murder. Eventually destroying and devastating his life by his own irrational decisions and behavior. The black cat in the question at the beginning was named, Pluto, who the narrator loved dearly. Poe loves using roman and greek mythology gods and goddesses name in his work and the name given to the black cat is also the name of the Roman god is the underworld. Which the name for the cat is metaphorical and has a hidden meaning to it. The story is also a great example on how destructive alcoholism is when the narrator took up drinking and starting domestically abusing his wife and neglecting the animals. This could also be Poe’s take on the “Temperance movement”. 

The Temperance movement was a genre popular during Poe’s time where the attempt to convince the public society the unsafe habit which is drinking/alcoholism. Due to the nature of alcoholism, the narrator soon indulging in violence. The narrator soon developed a bad temper which resulted in the gruesome acts such as gouging the black cat’s eye out which eventually transitioned into the hanging of the poor cat to murdering his wife with an axe through the head. In the end the narrator has completely destroy his family due to his violent tendencies and his temper. In the beginning he mentions: “But to-morrow I die, and to-day I would unburthen my soul.” where he is in his prison cell writing about how everything led up to his demise in attempt to free his soul. Poe’s influence after his death sparked a movement known as the “Art for Art’s Sake” movement where he was known as a predecessor of the movement in the nineteenth century. Poe’s theory on successful literature is noted in two points. One being that the work must create a unity of effect on the reader. Two the production of this single effect should not be left to the risks of accident or inspiration, but should be the result of the author’s rational deliberation in the smallest detail of style and subject matter. In Poe’s essay, “The Poetic Principle”, he states: “We have taken it into our heads that to write a poem simply for the poem’s sake [ … ] and to acknowledge such to have been our design, would be to confess ourselves radically wanting in the true poetic dignity and force:—but the simple fact is that would we but permit ourselves to look into our own souls we should immediately there discover that under the sun there neither exists nor can exist any work more thoroughly dignified, more supremely noble, than this very poem, this poem per se, this poem which is a poem and nothing more, this poem written solely for the poem’s sake.” Which explains that a poem does not have to have a super deep meaning for it to be a poem. In fact, it is just as worthwhile and could be in fact better. You would realize that there’s nothing better than a poem which has written with no reason than to just write a poem. 

Art for Art’s Sake was a concept that rejects the usual role of art in the use for political or religious way, but to instead opens up artists, authors, and poets for more artistic freedom. In short, it’s the concept that art needs no justification and that art itself is a beauty. The jingle ‘Art For Art’s Sake’ is linked to the history of English art and letters to Don Walter Pater from Oxford and his followers in the aesthetic movement. In many cultures, art was a form used to express religion and was often used a lot in religious practices. Art for Art’s Sake movement was a rebellion to that. In the Nineteenth century, many academic painters felt a duty to present art with conservative morality and Christian values while modernist demanded more freedom of expression in their art. Modernist argued that art should not be produced for the public’s sake, but for its own sake. The movement soon later was challenged by the conservative middle-class values which still demanded art to be done for society’s sake, religion’s sake, and enforcing that art should always have a meaning behind it. During the Postmodernism age, Art for Art’s Sake remains an important movement and was a crucial component on discussions about censorship and the significance of art. Art eventually became a more increasingly important part of everyone’s everyday life in a form of advertisements and eventually reaching media and film. Art has also been created using the computer such as computer animation, graphic design, and many other programs that allow the artist to expand their minds all the while not using their efforts mechanically. 

Edgar Allan Poe during his time alive did not have the greatest of experiences. Some might even say it’s a rather tragic ending. Being alive and while he was writing his poems and short stories, he was met with a lot of critics who didn’t accept or like his gothic style of poetry and storytelling. Poe was a critic and magazine editor who wrote thousands of essays, poems, reviews, and stories. He believed his role as a critic was to hunt down terrible writing and authors all the while demanding that American literature should be met with higher standards. Poe as a critic gained him the nickname the “Tomahawk Man” as he was a cut-throat critic because of his vicious reviews of his peers. His aggressive reviewing style caused many problems with his magazine and eventually, he would leave the editorial. Poe would eventually move to New York in 1844 where he would publish “The Raven” that would make his a literary sensation and increased his popularity. During 1844 Poe was challenged by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who was a popular literary author at this time, for his harsh criticism against Longfellow. Poe claimed that Longfellow plagiarized his work and due to this was faced with retaliation. Poe being a harsh critic meant he made some enemies. Shortly after Poe’s passing, a literary author known as Rufus Griswold damaged Poe’s reputation by portraying Poe as a drunk and as someone who abuses woman both physically and mentally. He then proceeded to create the first biography of Poe which furthers the misconceptions and added fuel to the fire. Griswold did this to get revenge on Poe because Poe always sharply criticized Griswold work. 

Poe was never able to find financial success or any more popular success while he was alive. Today his work has become America’s most interesting gothic stories that present great horror and mystery. His stories brought shock which moved many modern readers. All the while using great literary devices to allow readers to be immersed in his stories, such as the story “The Black Cat”, and even sparked movements such as “Art For Art’s Sake” movement. 

Works Cited 

  1. Zappia, Susie. “Influence of Edgar Allan Poe on American Culture.” What Student Learn From Dissecting a Cow’s Eye | Education – Seattle PI, 21 Nov. 2017, 
  2. “Edgar Allan Poe.” Poetry Foundation, Poetry Foundation, 
  3. “Art for Art’s Sake.” Ohio River – New World Encyclopedia, New World Encyclopedia, 
  4. Garland, Tyler. “Login.” Teen Ink, 28 May 2008, 
  5. Shmoop Editorial Team. “The Black Cat Analysis.” Shmoop, Shmoop University, 11 Nov. 2008,

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