History Questions and Answers

Start Your Free Trial

Do Edgar Allan Poe's stories provide any information about his personal life?

Expert Answers info

litgeek2015 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2015

write379 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Law and Politics

While it is tempting to want to read many of Poe's works as being about his own personal life, or even to assume they are autobiographical, generally this is known to be untrue.

According to the Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore,

“One of the principal sources of the popular image of Poe is the long-standing notion, encouraged by Poe himself, that his poems and especially his stories are autobiographical documents in which we can identify his narrators and characters as versions of Poe himself speaking in what appears to be his authentic voice."

Yet we also know that he never did most of the things his characters did. He is not re-telling real events, a hallmark of autobiographical pieces.

The closest we get to personal information about the author is moods or feelings. It seems that Poe used his own life as inspiration for the many dark stories and poems he wrote, as he, too, experienced a lot of tragedy in his own life. According to Killis Campbell, an autobiographer of Poe, we see this in "Annabel Lee." Poe uses this poem to portray his own grief over the loss of his young wife. Yet it is only mood and emotion here that bear any resemblance to the author's own life. His wife, obviously, did not live in a castle by the sea, for example.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial