Women in Edgar Allen Poe’s Literature

Poe Can Do It

People don’t know the mysteries behind Edgar Allen Poe’s writings. Many believe that Poe was a Gothic writer, but I believe he was more than that. Edgar Allen Poe was a realist, a person who was trying to deal with the trauma in his life by writing. Edgar Allan Poe is not a straight forward author, he is a “read between the lines” type of author. His writing is the mystery and his readers are the detectives, it is up to us to figure out the meaning for the stories. Poe wants the readers to break down his story and question everything. By using one form of Critical Approaches, I will solve the mystery behind one of Poe’s best stories, “The Tell- Tale Heart”. Many believe that the unknown narrator was a man, but I beg to differ. There are so many different elements in this story that shows that the narrator could indeed be a woman. By using feministic criticism, I will question the gender of the narrator in “The Tell-Tale Heart”.

Edgar Allan Poe was born in Boston, Massachusetts on January 19, 1809. His father, David Poe Jr., had left long before he was born, and his mother, Elizabeth Arnold Poe died of tuberculosis when Poe was only three years old. Poe was an orphan until he was adopted by the Allan Family, which separated him from his biological siblings. John and Francis Allan took Poe into the family and expected him to take on the family business, selling tobacco. Edgar did not have intentions on being a part of the family business, because his dream was to become a writer.

Edgar went to the University of Virginia in 1826, and soon after school moved back to his hometown of Boston, Massachusetts. Edgar was a writer and his greatest inspiration was the women in his life. His mother died of tuberculosis when he was young, his fiancé got married to another man while he was at the University of Virginia, and his adopted mother died of tuberculosis in 1829. The women in his life always seemed to leave him and all he wanted was love, but there was one woman who truly grabbed at his heart, Virginia Eliza Clemm.

He got married to his cousin, Virginia Eliza Clemm Poe, when she was thirteen years old and he was twenty – seven. Many said that the happily married couple had more of a brother- sister type of relationship. In fact, it is said that before Edgar even decided that he wanted to marry his beautiful young cousin she was arranged to have a fixed marriage, there was no evidence found to identify the man only sources that say that the man was much older than Poe at the time. Virginia Poe was diagnosed with an illness in 1842, and she died five years later after her illness became more severe. “The Tell-Tale Heart” was made in 1843, many see it is a story about a madman who is insane and fulfills his desires to kill by murdering the elderly man that he is caring for, but I see it as a dedication to his wife.

Women were supposed to be seen and not heard, not to question the authority of the man in their families, and their goals is to live up to the standards that society has brainwashed you into believing. That was the way that women were supposed to behave during that period, at least until the Women’s Revolution in the 1900s. Men did not see their women as individuals, but more like trophies or property. The men of that era would probably have a heart attack if he met a modern-day woman, many men with the exception of one, Edgar Allan Poe. Poe loved his wife and did anything, and everything to please his wife, he let her have complete control because in his eyes she was his queen until tragedy struck. In 1842 of January, Virginia Poe was diagnosed with tuberculosis and soon after went into a deep depression, Edgar did not know what to do so he created a story, “The Tell-Tale Heart”.

“The Tell-Tale Heart” is a story about the insanity of a person who grows an obsession with an old man’s eye, and the sound of his beating heart, but I believe that it is more than that. “The Tell-Tale Heart” was a story for Poe’s young love, Virginia. It is a story that puts her in a perspective where she is given control at a time where she is at her weakest. The gender of the narrator was never classified but people just predicted that the narrator was a male, because no one thought a female could commit such a crime because it was so vulgar. The use of the words “conceived” and “passion” are affiliated with a woman for they are very passionate, and are the only human beings in the whole entire world who can give birth.

At the end of the story the narrator admits that they committed the crime, in a way it is saying that the reason why the narrator confessed at the end of the story is because she could not contain the guilt that she felt inside, because she is weak. If you truly think about the wife could have indeed been the narrator, and the elderly man, but the policemen were societies views of women. Society at the time would have laughed, and shamed a woman for even thinking that she could possess that type of power to be violent, especially towards a man. The elderly man is slowly dying; Virginia is also slowly dying. The narrator is insane; Virginia is upset that she it dying, The narrator is irritated with the eye of the elderly man; Virginia would rather avoid the truth of her health, and when the narrator becomes obsessed with the beating heart of the elderly man, it is really just Virginia who was depressed realizing that she is not dead yet, even though she is acting as if she is.

Edgar Allan Poe was a man of mystery, but he was also a man full of love for his wife. He changed the way of literature by writing famous pieces without people even knowing the true meaning behind the story. The narrator could have easily been a woman forced into a loveless marriage who finally decided she was tired of him, or a nurse/maid who had to care for this creepy old man, who was sick of getting sexually harassed every day to the point of insanity. Either way it goes it could have been a man as much as it could have been a woman. But knowing the history behind Poe and the love that he had for his sweet Virginia, there is no way this narrator could have possibly been about anyone else, especially when the evidence is so obvious. He wrote this piece to try to give his ill wife happiness, it is not a random story about a crazy madman who is obsessed with the eye of an elderly man, it is so much more. Edgar Allan Poe is a man of mystery, but one secret that wasn’t a mystery was the love that he had for his darling wife.

Work Cited

Bloom, Harold, ed. “‘The Tell-Tale Heart’.”

Edgar Allan Poe, Bloom’s Major Short Story Writers. Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishing, 1998. Bloom’s Literature, Facts On File, Inc. www.fofweb.com/activelink2.asp?ItemID=WE54&WID=99152&SID=5&iPin=BMSSEP17&SingleRecord=True.

Rajan, Gita. “A Feminist Rereading of Poe’s “‘The Tell-Tale Heart.””

“The Tell-Tale Heart” and Other Stories, New Edition. 24.3(1998): 283-300. Print.

Werlock, Abby H. P. “Poe, Edgar Allan.”

The Facts On File Companion to the American Short Story, Second Edition. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2009. Bloom’s Literature, Facts On File, Inc. www.fofweb.com/activelink2.asp?ItemID=WE54&WID=99152&SID=5&iPin=CASS678&SingleRecord=True.