Edgar Allen Poe’s Impact on English Literature

By Jessica Rosello, NJCU Student (Main Campus)

Painting by Marlo McKillop

Painting of Edgar Allen Poe by Marlo McKillop

Edgar Allan Poe was an American writer whose dark, gloomy, and moody works impacted the English language. His works, although dark and creepy, reflect the mood and genre he desired to create in his literature. It is also a means of conveying one’s own character. Unlike many writers, Poe focused heavily on pessimistic aspects of the world and life. His style can be characterized as Gothic on many levels. Poe’s own life, which included losing his parents at a young age, can be a central reason as to why his works constantly focus on issues that are dark and deal with death.

Many pieces of literature that deal with death and the gloominess of the world do not always appeal to audiences. However, Poe’s contribution to literature has proven to be loved and appreciated by many over the span of time. His use of literary devices and techniques draw his readers in and give them a true and deep understanding of the mood of his writing. One poem in particular is “The Raven.” In this poem, Poe not only uses various techniques and devices that are still used today, but he also allows his readers to feel the fear, loneliness, and despair of the poem’s narrator.

In the poem, “The Raven,” the speaker is a lonely man who is lying in his bed on a cold winter night. The reader soon learns of his loss. He is mourning the loss of his love, Lenore. As he quietly mourns, he begins to hear a tapping. It turns out to be a bird that is sitting on his window and knocking. The raven flies into the house of the frightened man. From the beginning of the poem Poe expresses the darkness and despair of the situation. He writes, “Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,/ Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore.” (lns 1-2) His use of words and imagery allow one to get a sense of the speaker’s anguish and hopelessness. The literary elements that Poe uses set up the mood and make it the main subject of the piece.

Poe’s use of a raven in his poem is another technique that sets the mood of his poem. The creepy black bird symbolizes fear and death. Using a raven instead of any other bird brings the feeling of darkness and misery into the piece and reflects the feeling of the speaker. Poe’s use of assonance, imagery, personification, metaphor, simile, and repetition throughout “The Raven” add to the feeling of desperation. The repetition of vowel sounds and of certain words can be seen constantly throughout the poem. The words “nevermore” and “evermore” are repeated many times by the raven in such a way that mirrors the speaker’s realization that he has lost his love forever. The raven, to some degree, reflects the feelings of loss and pain that the speaker experiences. Poe’s use of these devices emphasizes the mood of the poem and speaker to the fullest degree.

Throughout the poem, the speaker’s shadow, or soul, is stuck under the raven. By the end of the poem, the raven is carrying the speaker’s soul. This image allows the readers to believe that Poe meant for the speaker’s soul to be lifted into Heaven to be with his lost love, Lenore. The many literary devices Poe uses emulate the isolation, fear, and weakness of the speaker without his love.

Edgar Allen Poe’s contribution to English literature is evident in the way that his poem and many others works of his have become classics. “The Raven” is just one poem in which the reader is given the opportunity to explore the speaker’s psyche and solve the puzzle by finding the underlying meanings in Poe’s words and use of literary devices. These similar techniques can be seen in present day literature in mystery/detective and science fiction genre books. His focus on having a particular style and genre influenced many writers after him. His use of the grotesque and gothic themes is still a popular genre today.

Explore posts in the same categories: Student Post, Theory & Criticism

One Comment on “Edgar Allen Poe’s Impact on English Literature”

  1. audio books for ipod…

    Very insigtful information. I truly enjoyed reading it….

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