Happy birthday to Edgar Allen Poe! Okay, maybe happy is not quite the emotion old Edgar Allan Poe would have expressed for his birthday, but it is still a celebration to those of us who are fans of arguably one of the greatest poets and horror writers of all time.
What made Edgar Allen Poe’s prose so frightening? To me it was the deep and personal way Edgar Allen Poe managed to worm his works and words into the deepest, and darkest parts of the human condition. We are all afraid of something, but Edgar Allen Poe stripped away the facades of what we fear to really get at the root of what we are all afraid of.
While the idea of being buried alive, as in the Cask of Amontillado, or if it is being found out for a dark crime as in the Tell-Tale Heart, we know there is a layer just a bit deeper than these shallow graves. It may be that the tale of the Fall of the House of Usher, or the poem of the Raven, were most blatant about this dark heart of Edgar Allen Poe’s words, but still there were layers to dig through.
What we all fear, as a people, as humans, to the very core of our beings is loss and abandonment, Humans are social creatures. Even when we do not necessarily want to be around other human beings, we do appreciate the knowledge that they are there. We are also fond of our thin thread of hope that there is good in all of us and that there must be something positive that will come of all of our intentions.
Edgar Allen Poe stole this away in his works. In a time when people were again made uncertain of what life was really all about, Edgar Allen poe made it abundantly clear. Life is about longing, and the thing we long for most is enduring life and connection. By taking us into the lives and stories of those who had lost that thing most precious, he did humanity a service. His stories were not about scaring people and making them shudder. He meant for us to learn, and to truly appreciate the beauty of family, love, and trust, because for his characters those things were no longer for them.
The next time you read a piece by dear Edgar Allen Poe, see that he has given you a gift. The gift of appreciation for all that you hold most dear in life.