Theme of Death in Edgar Allan Poe's Works

Categories: Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe is an American author best known for his works “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Cask of Amontillado”. His works may seem more frightening or dark than other stories you’ve read, but most of them, the inspiration comes from his life or other stories he’s heard. His writings were mostly from his imagination/ dreams he had. Edgar’s dark and unfortunate life helped create many of his most beloved tales. The Raven is one such poem written in 1845, it tells the story of a man who is alone in his house mourning over the loss of his precious Lenore.

The unnamed narrator then hears a slight tap, thinking it's someone at the door he heads and nothing is there, he hears it again and checks the window. Where a raven was waiting to be let in, he asks the raven some questions but it seems the raven can only say “Nevermore”. As the story mentioned about Lenore being dead, Poe’s wife while writing this was deathly ill.

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Virginia, his wife was suffering from Tuberculosis. He also mentions in the story how the Raven will leave in the morning just like everyone else. This is having to do with the fact that, his foster mother, brother and mother all died to tuberculosis, and Poe thinks he could lose one more to the disease. Also, why did Poe choose a Raven has the supporting character?

He originally thought about using the parrot another bird who can talk, but decided the raven would give off the more gothic vibe he was going for.

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Touching back on the topic of the raven, it is actually supposedly said to be an inspiration from Charles Dickens, “Grip”. The Raven was and still is one of Poe’s greatest contributions to literature, it made him famous. It was a big hit, sadly enough the book didn’t make very much money and he still couldn’t afford to take care of the house, put food on the table and not to mention his sickly wife who may die. “The Tell-Tale Heart”, one of poe’s shortest stories still teaches a very good life lesson about guilt.

In the Tell-Tale Heart the unnamed character is met with a decision, to kill this old man. Not that he had anything against the old man but his eye was pale blue and it was enough for him to want to kill the man. He kills him then police come saying they hear a scream, all the narrator can hear is the old man's heart beating in the floor. So he confesses from the guil. How does this connect to Poe’s life? This literary story shows a little bit of Poe’s unbalanced mental state. As it was mentioned before Poe has lost many loved ones and friends in his life, so how is it possible to keep a right mind after all the tragedies Poe has experienced in his lifetime. After all this death it is thought that Poe wrote this after being aware of his own mortality in the near future.

The symbolism that is exposed in this story is that the heart is the narrator's guilt, the lantern is the narrator's weapon against the man, and the watch symbolizes time. “The Masque of the Red Death” is a short story, only 10 pages, but it helps the reader connect past events in his life and reveals details about his life. Red death is a disease in the story that is very deadly and that anyone who catches it must be quarantined and locked away from people without it. It is very similar to another important disease in Poe’s life, one that took everyone that he ever loved. If you recall, it was his mother, step mother and his wife, they all died from the same illness.

The illness was Tuberculosis, which by definition is “A potentially serious infectious bacterial disease that mainly affects the lungs.” As it is easy to tell by most of the stories mentioned in this article, Poe had death on his mind while writing some of his stories. That is the case with “Annabelle Lee”, the last complete poem Poe wrote before his mysterious death. This is a story told in third person by Poe, Annabel Lee is said to be Virginia, Poe’s first cousin and wife. Annabel Lee died very mysteriously and almost sudden in the book, to where it caught the narrator so off guard.

After the sudden death of Annabelle, the narrator doesn’t give up on her and believes their souls are inseparable. Each night when he goes off to sleep he dreams he’s sleeping right beside Annabel Lee in her tomb. Annabel Lee is not the only story where the young beautiful girl dies. In other similar stories like the “House of Usher” the “Oval Portrait” show the common theme of death that lots of Poe’s work show. Again following the theme of death, “The Cask of Amontillado” spoken in first person, tells the tale of a drunken Fortunato. His drunkenness serves to allow Montresor to tie him up and trap him forever.

Unlike most Edgar Allan Poe books this story shares more than just the theme of death, it also has the theme of alcoholism. This story teaches you that alcoholism is dangerous not only because of what it does to your body but it allows you to not think straightly Mary Rogers was an american murder victim whose body was found floating in the hudson river. Edgar Allan Poe at the time turned this tragedy into inspiration and created a book about it, called “The Mystery of Marie Roget” it entails the story of a young woman much like Mary Rogers who was mysteriously murdered. The differences are that in Poe’s story they were in Paris while in real life Mary Rogers’ body was found in Hoboken and in the story she's an actress unlike real life where she was named “The beautiful cigar girl” because she worked in a tobacco shop.

This story unlike real life there was a murderer found in the book, it is also said that in real life she may of been killed by a failed abortion attempt, but that doesn’t explain why her body was found in the river. In conclusion, many of Poe’s life defining moments have lead to many of his famous novels and short stories. This shows how your hardships can be used as inspiration for something you’re passionate about. Sadly, Poe’s life came to a mysterious and sudden end on October 7, 1849. His cause of death is not known but his contributions to literature will live on forever.


Updated: Dec 12, 2023
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Theme of Death in Edgar Allan Poe's Works. (2021, Apr 24). Retrieved from

Theme of Death in Edgar Allan Poe's Works essay
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