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The inventor of the modern horror story and the modern detective story, as well as an early influence on the science fiction genre. Poe believed that all stories should be short enough to be read in one sitting. He also believed that the perfect subject for poetry is the death of a beautiful young womannote To be precise, he thought it perfect because it married the "most poetical subject"— Beauty— with the "most poetical emotion"— Melancholy. (which should tell you volumes about his own love life, not to mention the death of his mother and his adoptive mother at a young age). Poe's life was plagued by rifts with his adoptive father, deaths of numerous loved ones, and alcoholism. Typical. He was also a noted Caustic Critic, which undoubtedly earned him a few enemies and tarnished his reputation, despite the critical acclaim that he received.After Poe's death his literary executor was also one of his greatest enemies in the literary world and sought to destroy Poe's reputation with lies and forgeries. The Life and Letters of Edgar Allan Poe by James Albert Harrison actually provides evidence from eyewitness accounts that suggest he wasn't quite an alcoholic at all. That said, even without it, he still had way more than enough "inspiration" for his work.He also created the first notable introverted Great Detective character of C. Auguste Dupin who, operating independently of the police force, solved crimes via his great observation and reasoning skills while assisted by his Heterosexual Life Partner and roommate, who also narrates the stories. Sound familiar?Along with his detective fiction and poetry, Poe is celebrated for his wonderfully gothic and macabre horror fiction which did away with traditional themes of simple ghosts and witches. These stories would go on to influence dozens of authors who would expand and refine the genre, and they were loved most greatly by a certain Mr Howard Phillips Lovecraft, an introverted fellow who'd go on to set the tone of horror fiction for the rest of the 20th century. Poe also wrote quite a lot of humor (often dark humor, admittedly), which may come as a surprise to those who know his works only from assigned readings in high school.Poe was a Baltimorean, and "The Raven" is the namesake of the Baltimore Ravens.His only novel was The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket. That he had written a novel while preferring short stories could be explained seeing the Troll entry.His works were the inspiration for the first album from The Alan Parsons Project.
"What right," said I, "had the old gentleman to make any other gentleman jump? The little old dot-and-carry-one! who is he? If he asks me to jump, I won't do it, that's flat, and I don't care who the devil he is." The bridge, as I say, was arched and covered in, in a very ridiculous manner, and there was a most uncomfortable echo about it at all times-an echo which I never before so particularly observed as when I uttered the four last words of my remark.
Asexuality: He had a wife, Virginia, but he loved her only platonically.
It may have helped that she was his first cousin, though the fact that he married and loved her, even knowing this, meant he would have been perfectly happy to never sleep with anyone for the rest of their lives together. So, the shoe still fits.
Actually, the "platonic lovers" thing is up for debate.
No, The Spanish Inquisition didn't really kill people with a slowly lowering bladed pendulum, as seen in "The Pit and the Pendulum". Although considering the story is set during the Peninsular Wars, it was never meant to be historically accurate.
Long-suffering dwarf Hop-Frog finally snaps when the king dares to strike his beloved. His subsequent revenge is not pretty.
Montressor of "The Cask of Amontillado" claims that he patiently bore a "thousand injuries" from Fortunato until Fortunato finally went too far. Of course Montressor may not be the most reliable narrator.
Big Name Fan: He was a great admirer of Nathaniel Hawthorne, saying that despite his own reputation, he couldn't come close to the level of darkness present in Hawthorne's stories.
Blood from Every Orifice: In "The Masque of the Red Death," the Red Death is a mysterious infection or its personification, whose symptoms include profuse bleeding all over the face and the body, which kills within half an hour.
Due to the narrator's deranged mind, the old man of "The Tell-Tale Heart"
The story "The Premature Burial", which explores several nonfictional cases and has a protagonist terrified that it will happen to him. It doesn't, but a frightening experience that simulates it helps him overcome his paranoia at the prospect.
Whatever the opposite of 'Author Appeal' is, for Poe this was it; he was notoriously terrified of being buried alive, to the point where he would reportedly often go to sleep wearing a sign informing the reader that he was only sleeping, not actually dead. Being Buried Alive was (and still is) a genuine Primal Fear. It was common back in a time of poor medical treatment to be declared dead when you're just in a fever-induced coma: waking up in a coffin was a real and terrifying possibility.
Conviction by Counterfactual Clue: "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" contains gibberish that every listener identifies as a language they don't know. It turns out to be the "speech" of an orangutan - which wouldn't sound much like any of the mentioned languages if Poe had ever heard it. Some of the information about corpse bloating in "The Mystery of Marie Roget" is also wrong, but Poe was working with the knowledge of his day, so Science Marches On.
Of course the gibberish wouldn't sound anything like the languages the people thought they heard, but aural pareidolia can play some mean tricks on the ears.
Designated Hero/Villain: Intentionally invoked in "The Cask of Amontillado," the designations are made by a very Unreliable Narrator. Montressor repeatedly muses on Fortunado's Offscreen Villainy, but never gets into the specifics of what he actually did, and the guy appears to be harmlessly affable (but then so does Montressor if you don't have access to his thoughts). Meanwhile our narrator, who goes out of his way to assure the reader he is Most Definitely Not a Villain, is the one very carefully planning murder. Not even a quick and clean death either, but a pretty nasty And I Must Scream scenario.
Detective Literature: Poe is considered the inventor of the genre through his "tales of ratiocination" featuring the French detective Auguste Dupin ("The Mystery of Marie Roget", "The Murders in the Rue Morgue", and "The Purloined Letter").
Drugs Are Bad: Well, alcohol is bad, in the sense that it's used to set up misdeeds in "The Black Cat" and "Hop-Frog." Poe was generally realistic about it, thanks in part to personal experience. Maybe.
And the eponymous "Angel of the Odd" is a divine entity made of bottles and kegs who ruins the narrator's life through a series of Contrived Coincidences.
Fortunato, in "The Cask of Amontillado," is already drunk at Carnivale before he is lured to his doom by the prospect of taste-testing a cask of valuable wine. As he and Montressor walk deeper into the catacombs (used doubly as a wine-cellar), Fortunato is given more and more to drink, slowing his reactions to the revenge awaiting him.
Evil Twin: "William Wilson" is something of an inversion; the narrator is a Villain Protagonist with a Doppelgänger who deliberately foils his schemes. Ultimately, said doppelganger is revealed to be the living personification of his conscience.
Eye Scream: "The Black Cat" and, in some interpretations, "The Tell-Tale Heart".
Ill Girl: He was especially fond of this one. Incidentally, they tend to be pale from sickness, but in a pretty way.
Arguably Truth in Television; Poe's wife was ill for several years prior to her death, but he never saw her as anything less than beautiful.
Pretty much all of the women he loved became one of these, which also included his adoptive mother and his friend's mother.
Incest Is Relative: Finally found love with his teenage cousin, though their love was only ever platonic. He never had any children with her. Subverted in that under the laws of most lands, marrying one's cousin isn't incest; before widespread travel it was the rule rather than the exception.
Inner Monologue Conversation: Dupin is famously capable of responding to his companion's inner monologue, by deducing from body language what he must have been thinking about.
Inspired By: The murder of Marie Roget, a Dupin mystery.
Also, his unfinished play Politian was a fictionalization of a famous duel case of the time.
In the Blood: Implied to be the case with the titular family in "The Fall of the House of Usher".
Ironic Name: "Fortunato" is a very ironic name for the guy who gets buried alive...
It Will Never Catch On: "The Thousand-and-Second Tale of Scheherazade" is written as an epilogue to the Arabian Nights, in which Scheherazade makes the mistake of putting modern (for Poe's time) inventions in one of her stories, causing the disbelieving sultan to have her executed.
Also invoked in Real Life by "Eureka" which postulates absurd theories the modern reader will recognize as the Bohr model, the Big Bang, and general relativity... in 1848.
Let The Past Burn: The story "The Fall of the House of Usher" ends this way, and the curse of the Usher family is brought to closure through the destruction of the house, as well as the protagonist's love interest.
Load-Bearing Boss: The Usher twins in "Fall of the House of Usher" seem to be this for their family mansion.
The Lost Lenore: The Trope Namer, courtesy of "The Raven." A love interest of a main character in a story is dead before the story begins, or dies during its course, and their death has significant ongoing impact, consequences, and relevance for the remainder of the story.
Love at First Sight: Parodied and gleefully deconstructed in "The Spectacles", in which a short-sighted young man falls in love with a beautiful young woman at the theater, and ends up marrying her, only to find out she is actually his own great-great-grandmother from France who wanted to teach him a lesson for not wearing glasses and hitting on unknown women at the theater. The wedding was a fake wedding, of course.
Luke, I Am Your Father: Certain critics think D, in "The Purloined Letter," is Dupin's father. Others think the two men may be brothers, as indicated by the reference Dupin makes to the ancient Greek twins Atreus and Thyestes. Still others say certain critics are completely nuts.
Played for laughs in the comedy story (yes, really) "The Spectacles," where the extremely near-sighted narrator falls in love with a beautiful woman who turns out to be his great-great-grandmother.
This is actually quite frequent in Poe. It's generally an omission as a result of first-person narration, with the exception of the protagonist of "William Wilson," who refuses to give his name because he's piled too much infamy upon it.
Noodle Incident: Readers rarely get to learn why the narrator - especially the one in "Cask of Amontillado" - is pursuing a cold and cruel revenge against his nemesis/victim. There was some slight made back well before the story, but it's never mentioned and most of the time the victim doesn't even remember what it was.
In "Cask of Amontillado", while the full nature of the "insult" may never be known, Poe scholars have narrowed it down to being related to class conflict. Montressor is the scion of an ancient noble family, while Fortunato appears to be "new money." Arrogant, vulgar, and ignorant of the manners of high society, Fortunato inadvertently slighted Montressor's family honor in such a way that could only be redressed through violent retribution. Some have even theorized that Fortunato made his money by fleecing Montressor or one of his fellow ancient noblemen.
Profiling: How Dupin figures out that the thief of "The Purloined Letter" hid the letter in plain sight on a letter rack, and how he figures out that the killer in "The Murders in the Rue-Morgue" is an orangutan.
Psychological Horror: A lot of the horror stories have no gore at all, and when there is some it's dealt with quickly.
Scenery Porn: "The Domain of Arnheim" is arguably Scenery Porn Without Plot.
"The Island of the Fay" to a lesser extent.
Self-Parody: In "The Sphinx", the narrator is terrified and thrown into full-blown Poe melodramatics by what appears to be a terrifying apparition of death. It turns out to be just a harmless moth magnified by the window he was sitting next to.
"Eureka" takes Dupin's method of reasoning to absurd conclusions. Which were mostlyright.
Shaggy Dog Story: Although Dupin solves the case of "The Murder of Marie Roget," the audience isn't informed of more than Dupin's complex reasoning. This is partly because the story is inspired by real events, which themselves were never solved.
Springtime for Hitler: A certain Rufus Wilmot Griswold had a thorn in the side of Poe. After Poe's death, Griswold tried hard to ruin Poe's reputation. Most famously, he wrote a subversive biography where Poe was depicted as arrogant, evil, constantly drunk or high and very mentally unstable. Unfortunately for Griswold, this didn't deter people from enjoying Poe, instead spawned interest in the author and made him a legend surrounded by myths. Who wouldn't want to read a story written by a man who was described as being "evil"?
While Poe's reputation in America suffered thanks to Griswold, Poe's reputation and influence in France kept growing, and eventually worked its way back to the United States where Poe's name was rehabilitated.
Stealth Parody: "How to Write a Blackwood Article," in which "sensation stories" (i.e., stories that chronicle the narrator's descent into madness and/or death) are dissected and mercilessly mocked, hints that some of Poe's best-known psychological horror stories like "The Pit and the Pendulum" and "The Tell-Tale Heart" might have been sly jabs at the genre.
Take That, Audience!/Take That Me: "The Premature Burial." In the end, having mistakenly thought himself buried alive and found that he wasn't, the narrator overcomes his fears. One of the changes is that he "read no bugaboo tales—such as this." (Italics Poe's.)
Through the Eyes of Madness: Too many times to count. Interestingly, these protagonists are almost always Talkative Loons who're clearly nuts, with the exception of the one in "Ligeia", who's merely on drugs and may have seen clearly.
The Tooth Hurts: "Berenice" is about a young man with a tendency to go into trance states where he can't remember his actions afterward and a growing obsession with the teeth of his cousin/fiancée Berenice. Eventually he wakes up from one such state, surrounded by bloody dental implements and holding a box full of Berenice's teeth.
Perhaps the most obvious example is in "The Tell-Tale Heart," which is delivered as a borderline rant by an insane wo/man (trying to convince the audience s/he is sane). The entire point is that the Narrator is certain of things that are obviously untrue.
Wiki Walk: In "The Murders in the Rue Morgue," C. Auguste Dupin shows off his general awesomeness by tracking the narrator's train of thought through fifteen minutes of silent walking and several mental topic shifts, and saying exactly the right thing at the end.
Would Hit a Girl: The king in "Hop-Frog" who throws a glass of wine at the dancer Trippetta because she asked him to stop tormenting Hop-Frog. He and the courtiers who laughed pay for their cruelty when Hop-Frog turns them into a human chandelier.