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Edgar Allan Poe is considered to be the master of the short fiction in Literature. His works seem to be based upon his tumultuous relationship with his stepfather. Grolier’s Encyclopedia tells us Poe like his stepfather was an orphan at an early age. It also tells us Poe was reared by John and Frances Allan. He left the country for his early childhood schooling and returned to the United States in 1820. Grolier’s says in 1827, he was estranged by his stepfather because Poe refused to work to pay off his own gambling debts.
Poe’s immaturity lead to anger toward his stepfather. Poe never acted upon his thoughts of revenge, but they seem to have been revealed in his writing of “The Cask of Amontillado.” His anger is evident in the first line of the story. “The thousand injuries of Fortunato | had borne as I best could, but when he ventured upon insult I vowed revenge” (149). This line reflects Poe’s despise of his estranging stepfather John Allan.
This estrangement forced Poe to make decisions about his life that he would not have had to consider at such and early age.
Fortunato was a wealthy man who was admired in his community. I feel that is how Poe relates Forutnato to his step- father. Martha Womack quotes from Kenneth Silverman’s book Edgar A. Poe: A Never-Ending Remembrance. “Allan much resembled Fortunato being a rich man, respected, admired, beloved, interested in the wines, and a member of the Masons.” Womack goes on to quote from Silverman’s book “Even the Allan name can be seen as an anagram in Amontillado.
” In the second paragraph of the story I feel this is where Poe expresses how he dealt with his father’s estrangement. Montressor says “It must be understood that neither by word or deed had I given Fortuanato cause doubt my good will. I continued, as my wont, to smile in his face, and he did not perceive that my smile was at the thought of his immolation” (149). In his life he did not take revenge against his father instead, he just left and went to Boston. Never giving his father the chance to think that he would seek revenge. In the last paragraph of the story Montressor says “I forced the last stone into position; I plastered it up” (153). Once the last stone was sealed Fortunato was cast alone with dead bones. I think this is a symbol of how Poe felt when his father refused to pay his debts. He felt his stepfather had built the same barrier that separated their ability to communicate at any level. The barrier that was built severed all ties between he and his stepfather.
The story the “The Tell-Tale Heart deals with death, but in a different murderous plot. I feel this is another story where a plot of murder relates to his stepfather and that again he never took action upon his thoughts. To understand this story you must relate the narrator’s story to Poe’s life. “How, then, am I mad? Hearken! And observe how healthily-how calmly I can tell you the whole story.” (Charters 597). Hoffman says, “When a narrator commences in this vein, we know him to be mad already. But we also know his author to be sane.” (Hoffman 222) Poe, reveals his anger through the madness of the narrator. The narrator also says, “I loved the old man. He had never wronged me. He had never given me insult. For his gold I had no desire.” (Charters 597). Poe seems to be talking about his father inversely, wishing that this was how his father had treated him. It was not the case, though. John Allan had wronged Edgar and had insulted him. His estrangement of Edgar is proof of the wronging and insult he gave to Edgar. The other two lines are how Poe wished he felt about his stepfather. Poe wished he loved him and wished he had no desire for stepfather’s gold, but Poe did aim to be wealthy just like John Allan. Mary Bonaparte says in her book The Life and Works of Edgar Allan Poe, “This strangely resembles the representation, by its opposite, of Poe’s own relation to his foster-father, John Allan!” (Bonaparte 491). I feel she is saying in these four lines everything Poe wrote, the opposite happened to him in real life.
The narrator says “I think it was his eye! Yes, it was this! He had the eye of a vulture – a pale blue eye, with a film over it.” (Charters 597). The eye is a symbol of his stepfather’s constant surveillance of Poe’s actions. The eye of vulture is not one of a predator, but of a scavenger looking to pick apart the remains of something. Just as his stepfather always searched for his adolescent mistakes.
The narrator says “I had been sitting and grated upon the boards, but the noise arose all over and continually increased. It grew louder – louder – louder!” (Charters 600). I feel this is where Poe’s conscience comes into his writings. The Narrator begins to go mad as he says “Was it possible they heard not? Almighty God! – no no! They heard! – they suspected! – they knew!” (Charters 600). Poe is reflecting his thoughts of what he would have felt like had he ever committed such a horrible crime. Poe goes on to tell what he would have done had he committed murder. The narrator screams, “Villians,” “Disemble no more! I admit the deed!” (Charters 600). I think Poe is trying to show in the last lines that he could never have committed any acts of vengeance against his stepfather. Because his conscience would have never have left him alone. It would have always been there eating at him like a vulture scavenging its prey.
In the story “Hop Frog” we again see a tale of vengeance against the stepfather. Hop Frog seems to represent Poe as a court jester of a cruel king who represents his stepfather. The king, who is mighty and powerful, is outsmarted by the lowly jester, who plots his vengeance at the request of the mighty king. The father represented by the king receives his just punishment. In the story “Hop-Frog”, the character, Hop-Frog is tired of being the laughing stock of the King and his council and the bad treatment of his lady friend Treppetta forces Hop-Frog to make an ultimate decision. Hop-Frog comes up with an idea to make the king think that he will have the joke of all jokes if the king has a masquerade party. The king agrees and it is Hop- Frog who gets the last laugh. As he has the king and his council set on fire. This story is another way that Poe reveals his thoughts towards his stepfather. Death is his ultimate revenge and each story provides a different plan for executing the plans of death.
No one will ever know the true meanings of Poe’s literary works. There are only theories and beliefs of what his stories, poems, and essays mean and represent. I do feel that his writing is a reflection of horrible relationship between he and his father and the death’s that he endured to his dearest loved ones. He is without a doubt one of the great literary writers of his time and will always be considered one or if not the best short fiction writer ever.
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