The Founding Father of Gothic Literature

The life of Edgar Allan Poe and his contributions to gothic literature.


Edgar Allan Poe was born on January 19, 1809. His parents were actors, and therefore they were constantly on tour. Two years after the birth of Poe, the father disappeared, and the mother got sick and closed her eyes. Poe was adopted into a wealthy family, namely the Allan family. Accordingly, it can be seen that he grew apart from the actual family bonds. His life was acceptable until his university years, and he was on good terms with his family. His university years opened the door to the horror stories that he would write in the future because, at that time, anxiety disease started to appear, and he began to give himself to alcohol. After that, Poe, caught in the chains of despair, immersed himself in alcohol and literature. In the most productive years of his life, he was in poverty because the only job he had was writing, and he died in 1849.


Edgar Allan Poe did not turn to Gothic Literature incidentally, his experiences were more terrifying than any of the stories that he had written. He was someone who spent almost his entire life in poverty and despair as was mentioned before, and he turned to literature to fight the negativities in his life. Poe, who started his life with death, would also lose his wife at a later age. As it can be seen, Poe's life was already Gothic. Probably for these reasons, his pen contributed a lot to this genre and set Poe apart from other Gothic authors.

There are key principles that are felt in every story of Edgar Allan Poe. Poe believed in and used these principles, unlike their other colleagues. Poe used these as a critical revolt against this genre. These are; ’’‘unity of effect’, ‘rejection of allegory and didacticism’, ‘the epic poem is not a poem’, ‘the brevity of a work ’, and ‘appealing to the emotions.’’These five principles are intertwined with each other, and they all together help him to write a story or a poem.

Unity of effect may be the answer to the question of why he wrote so many short stories? According to this principle, a story should be written in one sitting and must be read in one sitting. Edgar Allan Poe does not want to spoil the atmosphere of the story while writing or reading because these are Gothic stories, and one of the most important things here is the atmosphere. By following this principle, the focus is not distorted, so every word increases the intensity of emotion. Another issue that can be evaluated under the context of unity of effect is "the brevity of a work of art." Every word must have an impact on the reader. It can be said that protecting the atmosphere is very valuable. Poe is protecting it with one sitting and words. 

Poe rejects allegory and didacticism. In this principle, the motto is art for art's sake; art is not for society. As mentioned above, Romanticism rejects rationality and teachings; it gives importance to emotion, individuality, and vision. So, in Poe's works, a reader may not encounter rationality. The greatest example of this principle can be seen in Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven. In the poem, Poe places an imaginary raven on the bust of Pallas. "Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door, Perched, and sat, and nothing more." (Poe,1845) The Pallas represents creative intelligence. So, it is obvious that; the raven on the bust of Pallas represents irrationality taking over the place of rationality in Poe's works. 

According to Poe, the epic poem is not a poem because epic is not directed by emotions that much. It is a kind of chivalry poem. It takes place in a palace or somewhere like a palace. Emotions are indispensable. Emotions, which are the most important element of the Romantic Period, are also the most important element of Poe. Therefore, it can be understood that Poe tries to appeal to emotions. 

Edgar Allan Poe used all of these in his works. He did not accept gothic literature as it was; he added a lot of things and became a master in this genre. Poe's application of these perspectives is as interesting as these. Now, it is time to see Edgar Allan Poe's style.

Since Edgar Allan Poe carried Gothic to high-level dimensions, it is necessary to look specifically at his gothic style. The above-mentioned definition of gothic is somewhat simplistic to Poe. Of course, Edgar Allan Poe is not from outer space, but he is one of a kind.


The setting in Poe's works is full of obscure and unknown places because he tries to isolate the reader from his or her environment. As an example, in Edgar Allan Poe's The Cask Amontillado, the setting is described as hell as the story continues above the ground, it suddenly goes underground, and at the same time readers follow it. 

Characters who bring to life with Poe's pen are not very sympathetic because the characters do not introduce themselves very much. Most of them are unreliable characters. They hide their feelings, and they hide what they will do. And sometimes, it is possible to see them between sleep and wakefulness. In The Raven, the speaker says; "While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,"(Poe,1845)He is somewhere between sleeping and wakefulness. Therefore, a reader cannot believe what the speaker says and, Poe is not interested in mundane subjects that should be seen every day. His subjects are strange and unusual. He sometimes talks about cannibals and sometimes about imaginary birds.

In summary, it can be said that Edgar Allan Poe did not accept the gothic literature as it was, he contributed a lot to this genre and became the master of this genre.