Edgar Allan Poe: Great American Poet & Mentally Insane Loner
Edgar Allan Poe has many literary accomplishments under his belt. His talent with words and confidence to embrace such dark subject matter make him the creator of the surrealist movement. This Gothic Genre god has also written one of the most well known poems in American Literary history, “The Raven.” As if that is not enough, he is also to thank for the first ever detective story, “The Murders in Rue Morgue.” While one would assume that would come with a life of riches and happiness, it did not, quite the opposite. Poe led a life of sadness, loneliness, and grief.
Using modern terminology, Poe is classified as Manic Depressive, Bipolar, and Schizophrenic. These disorders saturated Poe’s mind and thoughts, driving the themes and plots of his writing. His mental misfortune, while enhancing his stories, created quite the opposite for his realms of reality. Poe was abandoned by his father and was orphaned at an early age when his mother died of tuberculosis. His manic psyche developed an infatuation with the death of the mother he barely knew. This infatuation was repeatedly shown in his writing through his manipulations of female death.
Drawing on his mother’s death was just one of many ways that Poe intertwined his life, his disorders, and his writings. Consciously or not, he often depicted stories that were reflective in his life; horrific and full of death. These sad tales of a world that existed in his head were often autobiographical glimpses presented in a theme of “double-self.” That is, the characters he created often were conflicted with aspects of multiple individualities in the one, Bipolar or Schizophrenic. From his writing, you get no sense of a physical realm; there is no reference to social or political issues. In fact, it makes you wonder if psychologically he was even aware of these issues. Instead, he wrote only of the contents of his disordered mind, showing the dark troubled world in his head.
Poe, most likely, retreated even further into his unstable mind because the outside world he lived in was a place few would want to live. Having no professional respect for his work during this time drove him to live the life of a pariah. After being disserted by his parents, the family that took him in wouldn’t even adopt him. Disturbingly, following no successful relationships with family or any acceptance of any kind, he wed his thirteen-year-old cousin. Being mentally ill, depressed, and socially rejected drove him to attempt suicide. Still, through all this, he wrote, turning his physical life inside out, and extracting and documenting chronicles of his morbid imagination.
Poe died oddly and unsettlingly. The exact cause is not known, as he was found rambling and incoherent in a stranger’s clothing. Mysteriously, he passed a few days later. Like many other praised artists and writers, he was not deemed famous until long after his death. Though he was mentally unstable, estranged, and misunderstood, he eerily recognized the bizarre relation between psychological imbalance and creative beauty:
"Men have called me mad; but the question is not yet settled, whether madness is or is not…whether much that is glorious, whether all that is profound, does not spring from disease of thought…”— Edgar Allan Poe
Almost, as if he knew of the recognition, esteemed status, and importance that his work would one day be recognized for. Poe, clearly a narrative genius, is also a solid confirmation of the union between imagination and insanity.
by Keeley Mills, Fine Artist and Illustrator, for Obsessions & Phobias
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