Was Poe Crazy?So many of Poe's characters seem to have a separation from reality.  Is this just a narrator's persona, or did Poe himself have serious mental issues?  I am thinking of modern...

Was Poe Crazy?

So many of Poe's characters seem to have a separation from reality.  Is this just a narrator's persona, or did Poe himself have serious mental issues?  I am thinking of modern macabre writers like Stephen King, for example, who concoct gruesome scenarios in their heads but are really fairly normal.  What do any of you know about Poe's personal life and how did it influence (or not influence) his writing?

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William Delaney | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Edgar Allan Poe could hardly have been crazy and yet have been able to write the way he did. It should be kept in mind that Poe may be remembered for being a poet and short story writer, but he made his living as an editor. As an editor he knew what the reading public liked, and it is no coincidence that he happened to write the kinds of things that many people like to read. The public is not much different today. They like stories about murders, strange mysteries such as UFO sightings, mysterious disappearances, and all sorts of terrible crimes. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes tales were inspired directly by Poe's two or three stories of ratiocination, most notably "The Murders in the Rue Morgue," in which an orangutan kills to women with a razor. Poe has influenced writers all over the world--a feat which would seem difficult for a writer who was crazy. All the murder mysteries that appear by the thousands in America, Europe, and elsewhere have their distant origins in a few stories by Poe. (Of course, sanity and insanity are not easy to define.)

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litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I don't think that either King or Poe was crazy. You don't have to be crazy to imagine how a crazy person thinks. I think that both of them were extremely good at imagining how people think and getting into the heads of people to imagine how they might have created these events.
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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I think with some authors their writing allows them to express in a cathartic fashion what they feel or want to show about the human condition. Poe, as a "Dark Romantic", was interested in establishing the dark side of every human - not just the mad and murderers. I wonder whether by so successfully capturing the thoughts and words of such "madmen" he is showing what we are all, at least at some level, capable of.

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ask996 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

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There have always been rumors about Edgar Allen Poe and his mental state. Drinking was an issue and while originally his death was attributed to alcohol, a more modern theory was that he died of rabies. That being said, however, his writing of horror stories was prompted more by the  commercial success of such works. Read some of his poetry “Annabelle Lee”, “Alone?” and you see a different side to the prolific writer.

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mejwestut | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

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Was Poe Crazy?

So many of Poe's characters seem to have a separation from reality.  Is this just a narrator's persona, or did Poe himself have serious mental issues?  I am thinking of modern macabre writers like Stephen King, for example, who concoct gruesome scenarios in their heads but are really fairly normal.  What do any of you know about Poe's personal life and how did it influence (or not influence) his writing?

I had an English teacher who once told us that Poe was originally interested in humor, but failed dismally (horrible reviews). He drank and was considered a "falling down" drunk. According to her, he often wrote during his drunken episotic depressions.

I've often wondered if he was somewhat bi-polar.

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pward55 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) eNoter

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Anyone can be crazy, that is a very lose term associated with any abnormal behavior. (What is defined as  "normal" can be different for each individual.) Basically that means I might consider someone crazy that you do not. It is a term like "cool" simply because I feel one way towards something doesn't mean you'll agree. Insanity is a mental derangement; the person actually has a disorder or a chemical imbalance. The mental health of Edgar Allen Poe is an arguable topic - read up on him because he has some famous works that are (arguably) dark and deranged topics. He was a very talented man despite the gloominess of his poems and short stories.  I wouldn't consider him crazy, insane - rather dark and possibly troubled. I also think that perhaps he would be no 'crazier' or 'insane' than some of the people who write horror films these days. I mean, who in their right mind concocts a storyline like "Saw?"  There has to be some darkness in the mind to create some of these films, so Poe would not be any more unusual than these writers.

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hankinson19 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted on

Actually a man named Rufus Griswald is responsible for the false interpretation of Edgar Allan Poe. He did drink but he did not drink while he was writing. Poe was actually originally interested in poetry but his tales were more popular with the masses. Poe lost many women in his life including his mother at a young age and his wife shortly before his death. This resulted in him writing about the death of a beautiful woman very often. In stories such as "Berenice," "The Fall of the House of Usher," and "The Black Cat" a young beautiful woman dies in all of them. I hope this helps. A good book that has a nice summary of his life and a lot of hisor, poems, and essays he wrote is "The Portable Edgar Allan Poe" Edited By J. Gerald Kennedy.

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