Gothic literature makes extensive use of primitive, medieval, wild mysterious, or natural elements. No Writer uses these elements to create such dramatic and strong effects as Edgar Allan Poe. He masters the Gothic story and is able to draw the reader deeply into his tales. The reader empathizes with the characters. Poe uses intense imagery and psychoanalytical subtleties underlying each work to produce a depth of sensations and sensitivity to all that creates fear, doubt, and tension in a human mind.
His Gothic style prose emanates from his unusual and aberrant life style combined with a careful and deliberate effort to simultaneously attack the reader’s heart and head. Poe’s writing is a derivative of his life. Only a person so deranged and freakish could produce such wildly creative and horrific work. Poe dysfunctional life began early as both of his parents died before he was four. Mr. and Mrs. John Allan brought Poe into their home and provided for him but never filled the emotional void in his life. Through the Allan’s, Poe was able to obtain a great education.
He went to school in England for five years and Richmond for five years. Then, he entered the University of Virginia in 1826. Soon after beginning school at UVA, Poe acquired heavy gambling debts and became a hard drinker. John Allan moved him from the University in December of the same year he entered. Their quarrel over the debts was the last and most bitter of the many fights that occurred between them. In 1827, Poe enlisted in the United States Military Academy at West Point. A few years later, he was expelled for drunkenness and inattention to duty.
Living by his pen, Poe never made much money, and his drinking habits kept him impoverished. In 1835, Poe moved back to Richmond and edited The Southern Literary Messenger. Through this job, he established a good literary reputation. A year later he married his 13 year old cousin, Virginia Clemm. His alcoholism caused him to be absent from work frequently, and he lost his position as editor in 1837. After spending a year in New York, Poe became editor of Graham’s Magazine in Philadelphia. His wife had become weak and sickly, and his drinking had also worsened.
So, he returned with his family to New York. In 1845, Poe grew famous for The Raven and Others Poems and in 1846 he became editor of the Broadway Journal. A year later his wife died at age 24. After her death, his life was filled with poverty, intoxication, mistaken love affairs, and frequently fine work. In 1849, he visited Richmond and became engaged to his old sweetheart, but before the wedding, he was found unconscious on the street after celebrating with some acquaintances in Baltimore. He died four days later on October 7 at age 40.
The premature death of Poe’s parents, especially his mother, led him to an abnormal and unhealthy obsession with death and fantasy. Bonaparte attributes Poe’s unusual aspects to the early deaths of his parents: Ever since he was three, in fact, Poe had been doomed by fate to live in constant mourning. A fixation on a dead mother was to bar him forever of an earthly love, And make him shun health and vitality in his loved ones. Forever faithful to the grave, his imagination had but two ways open before it: the heaven or the tomb according to whether he followed the “soul” or body of the lost one…
Thus, through his eternal fidelity to the dead mother, Poe, to all intents, became necrophilist… Had [his necrophilia] been unrepressed, Poe would no doubt have been a criminal (Guerin 140). Living in the shadow of death his whole life, Poe shares and translates his thoughts and pains through his short stories. Poe has a “private vision of horror, unnamed and perhaps rationally unaccountable, but it was to be the touchstone of his future art” (Snell 48). This vision, his ingenious use of imagery, and his exploration into the depths of the human mind enable him to compose the ultimate Gothic literature.
Most likely a result of his elite education, Poe is a master of words and judiciously arranges them to maximize their effects. The words assemble to produce rich imagery allowing clear and vivid perception of the horror and terror within the stores. In “The Cask of Amontillado”, “The Tell Tale Heart”, and “The Masque of the Red Death”, Poe utilizes alliteration and onomatopoeia to poetically cast a haunting mood on his readers. These appeals to sight and sound play a profound role in creating fear in the reader’s mind.