[eminent] all that we seem within a dream or seem is but a dream

“All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream.” — “A Dream Within A Dream” by Edgar Allan Poe 

Amid the roaring rise of American Romanticism, Edgar Allan Poe emerged to eminence as an outlaw of the literacy world. The life of Edgar Allan Poe was an unhappy record of a talented disaster. His brilliant abilities propelled him into madness. The genius became the madman. Such was Edgar Allan Poe, a tragic catalyst in an artistic revolution. 

portrait of Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe had a unique way of writing that appeals to my emotions and my beliefs. Poe presented gothic tales that became romantic under his masterful language. Through skillful techniques and subtle style, he portrayed demented perspectives and inserted the readers into the chaotic views of his characters. However, aside from Poe’s literature talents, Poe himself is a mystery, even more peculiar than his stories.  The life of Edgar Allan Poe might be considered as a record of a growing disaster. Edgar Allan Poe, born Edgar Poe, was orphaned at three. His father deserted the family and his mother died. Edgar was separated from his siblings and sent to Richmond, Virginia, to the home of John and Frances Allan. The Allan raised Poe as their own. However, conflicts developed between Poe and John Allan as Allan disapproved of Poe’s dream of becoming a writer. Allen then proceeded to cut Poe out of his will for his disobedience. With little financial support, Poe embarked on poverty.  However, Allen’s action only assured Poe of his determination to become a writer. Poe’s childhood experience was a major contribution to his success; he channeled his yearnings for love and care into his gothic writing. In his life, Poe encountered tragedy after tragedy, death after death. Many believe that he developed ideologies about death throughout his writing as a way to cope and overcome the sadness and despair of losing nearly everyone he loved. But, ultimately, unable to overcome his obstacles, Poe turned to insanity. The only way we, in the modern era, are able to be introduced to the challenges Poe faced is through his writing. Therefore, the evidence of challenges and the corresponding growth only exists in the analysis of his writing. As is his life, Poe’s death was a sudden and indefinite ending, his official cause of death was the swelling of the brain. However, medical records mysteriously disappeared and the truth of Poe’s death, to this day, remains a forever question.  

The impacts Edgar Allan Poe left in the world forever changed literature and literary theory. Many modern students, including myself, are tortured by Poe’s literary criticism, the skeleton of modern literary theory, where he puts “great stress on the correctness of the English language, meter, and structure and the importance of achieving a unity of mood or effect”. Poe is also acknowledged as the inventor of the modern mystery novel with his publication of “The Murders in the Rue Morgue”. Poe’s work later inspired the Sherlock Holmes novels by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, therefore, Poe is also responsible for the popularization of the mystery genre and its rise to a cultural icon. Stephen recognizes that “[Poe] wasn’t just a mystery/suspense writer. He was the first”, a pioneer in the genre. Poe is also credited with developing Gothic horror stories and innovating in the science fiction form. Furthermore, the morals of Poe, the realities he expressed in his writing was the predominant theme of the whole romantic movement. Poe’s indifference to the larger interests of society probed him to create heroes who are “superior individuals who pursue extravagant curiosities or fancies; plumb abysses of dissipation; or indulge forbidden passions ”.  The drama of his heroes often “arise[] from their conflict with human or divine law”. However, Poe also was instrumental in exploring the potential dark side of human emotions. He affected American Romanticism by relating to Germanic Romanticism that explores philosophical metaphysical condition.

Edgar Allan Poe was a gifted creative, able to tell tales with a distinctive and strange style. His gruesome tone and savage imagery made his poems and stories masterpieces. Able to draw stories out of the reality of his mind, Poe emphasized on the distorted, the mysterious, the destroyed, the evil, the horrible, the otherworldly, and especially, the fear that he installs in his readers. His talent to inspire emotions was one of the strengths that made him one of the most influential American writers of the 19th century. However, his brilliant capacities were both a blessing and a curse as he often struggles with insanity. Poe’s heroes were often a reflection of himself; they were “melancholy men, pursued by unrelenting fate; they are neurotic, hypochondriac, monomaniac, victims of vain delusions, they [were] the prey of melancholia, insane from sorrow or from the thirst for revenge”. These were all symptoms of Edgar Allan Poe’s failing psych. They paralyzed his creative abilities and forced him to seek comfort in the use of drugs, stimulants, and alcohol. Poe was a gifted learner yet his gift also destroyed him. Like Poe, I strive for independence at a young age, both financial independence and physical independence. He possessed great determination in his dream of becoming a writer. This determination can also be described as a stubbornness that costed himself his relationship with his father. However, this determination is an ability that I hope to achieve one day. Among Poe’s determination, his most definite quality would be his monstrous creativity. A quality that, though I inspire to possess, I know that I will never reach his greatness. In the journey through TALONS, Edgar Allan Poe exemplifies my passions and my hope to live these passions without going crazy. He is a gifted writer and a determined achiever that ultimately reached his dream. This is my goal for TALONS, to reach my dreams with determination and stubbornness. I will always share Poe’s love for the written art, especially strange tales of macabre. His poetry is pieces of art that I aggressively support. We both share an in-depth interest in the irrational and insane part of humanity. As a madman himself, Poe conveyed comprehensive and thoughtful psychology of insanity that I find myself deeply fascinated by. His destruction moves me and his mystery begs me to discover more. 

“I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity.” — Edgar Allan Poe, in a letter to George W. Eveleth  


the Venn diagram above is a comparison I made to show the difference and similarity between Poe and I:

In my future research, I’ll be focusing on Poe’s insanity and its connection with his creativity and his relationships. His death is a mystery I want to explore and develop. Though Poe and I have are vastly different, I hope to understand him from his past and psychological progression. In my presentation of Edgar Allan Poe, I will portray his battle of insanity through the perspective of an object of value to him.


excited for the exploration of the mystery of Edgar Allan Poe, 

– Joanna





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