Monday, 4 July 2011

Edgar Allan Poe - A Mystical Grotesque Prose I Didn't Quite Enjoy

I didn't quite get Poe, to be honest. So far I had heard a lot about the American author but mostly I connected his name to the genre of the detective story. Reading a collection of his best prose, I was quite shocked by his style and most importantly by his themes. Horror, fantasy, neurosis, and excesses - this is Poe's imaginary world of fear.

Poe was the first well-known American author, who tried to earn a living by writing alone, resulting in a financially difficult life. To say it plainly, he was very poor and this constant struggle for money certainly affected his mood. He was known to be largely depressed and gloomy and so is his prose. Most of the short stories I read in this collection focused on death, its physical signs, premature burial, decomposition, living dead, dead alive, etc. Yes, the guy was spiritually and philosophically interested with the one concept most living and happy people tend to ignore. Yet, Poe goes deeply into the subject, becoming one of the most prominent authors of the dark Romanticism. These sinister stories, filled with puzzles and questions should not be read late at nate because even if you have very stable nerves, you will be still very tempted to look behind some dark corner.

Poe's prose put the beginning of the detective fiction and later the science-fiction. Out of the prose I read, I must admit I enjoyed the detective stories more. The Murders in the Rue Morgue and The Gold Bug were mysterious, suspenseful, and quite interesting. They kept me reading until the end and I was sincerely impressed by the author's logic and imagination.

The science-fiction ones, or should I say the ones obsessed with all forms of death, I didn't quite like or get for that matter. In Poe's world people are buried prematurely, the living are dead, the dead are living and walking among us, people reincarnate into their children or other people. Death is not certain in that world. Death is something to be doubted, examined, and thought about. Poe's obsession with this dark theme makes his short stories gloomy, depressing, and at times largely non-understandable. Mostly, I was quite confused by the following short story. In Loss of Breath, the main character loses his breath and starts searching for it. In the mean time he is killed and in the tomb he finds a man with two breaths, who in fact has stolen our protagonist's breath in the first place. Hm...either I am too shallow or this is totally incomprehensible.

Poe's pale mystical girls and ghostly creatures, his obsession with mysticism and after-death life, the burlesque and the satire create a world of constant fear and doubt. The American author's prose maybe on some level reflects his difficult and depressing life. Or on other level, it signals for a confused human being, who searches for the primordial questions in the field of death. Whatever the truth, I certainly didn't enjoy Poe's science-fiction. His mysterious short stories were quite fantastic, but the moment he starts talking and analyzing death and its numerous forms, I would say: "No, thank you".


  1. The Macabre Edgar Allan Poe!! He is the inventor of the Horror genre, but you need more time with the author so you can feel him properly.
    Me personaly adore his poems such as The Raven, Ulalume, Annabel-Lee, Dream within-a-dream and..just all of his poems are great.. try them first, but in the original texts, and then go to the prose :)

  2. Indeed, this is my first encounter with Poe. I might need more time but from the prose I read so far, I just don't get his death subject :)

  3. His humorous stories are really something, Lora. You should check them out sometime. I found those witty and amusing, very refreshing especially after you've read his macabre ones.