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Poe, Edgar Allan

(US, 1809–49)

Poe had a short and tragic life. His macabre vision was fed by the death of his first wife and continuing poverty. He died after one of his notorious drinking binges. A poet, short-story writer, and respected journalist, Poe is best known for his tightly focused Gothic horror tales. ‘The Pit and the Pendulum’ (1843) features Nicholas Medina, grieving husband living in a castle replete with a complex chamber of horrors built during the Spanish Inquisition. Convinced that he has buried his wife alive, Medina becomes increasingly tormented. In 1961 the story became one of many Roger Corman films starring Vincent Price. In 1964 Corman also adapted ‘The Masque of the Red Death’ (1842). To avoid death from a plague, Prince Prospero shuts himself and a thousand chosen people in his castle. Here, he cultivates the perfection of Beauty through a series of special effects until the arrival of a chilling masked intruder brings evil and inevitable death. Apart from Gothic horror tales, Poe wrote more light-hearted fiction and detective stories. ‘The Man that was Used Up’ (1839), shows the bellicose General Smith reduced to a small, ungainly bundle when he has removed all his finery. ‘The Murders in the Rue Morgue’ (1841) is widely regarded as the first detective story. Poe's influence on later writers has been enormous.


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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionBooks & Authors: Award-Winning Fiction (Pa-Sc)