Earlier, I wrote about the plentiful reasons I believe that Edgar Allan Poe is the greatest American writer. Well, to support my assertion, here are a few of my favorites from Poe’s many and varied literary efforts. Given that his work was written over a century and a half ago, they are now well beyond copyright. Click on the titles of any of the stories or poems listed below and you can read the associated work in its entirety.
Is this the best poem ever written? Quite possibly. By now, everyone knows the gist of this one. Exactly how far reaching has this work’s influence been? We’ve got an NFL team in Baltimore named after it. When will this poem’s effects ever die out? Quoth the raven, “Nevermore.”
Here’s another piece that everyone, and I mean everyone, is intimately familiar with. The imagined sound of the murdered man’s beating heart under the floorboards has become an all-encompassing metaphor for inescapable guilt.
Has there ever been a more bleak description of a house and surrounding landscape than the opening of this tale? It’s an intimate little story about a young woman’s inability to escape her family’s long history of madness as it finally comes crashing down around her and her brother.
This is another one of Poe’s masterworks of poetry. While it doesn’t possess the wide-spread longevity of The Raven, the deep emotional scars from a loss of love resonates throughout. What else can you say about the tale of a love so great that even the angels in heaven were envious enough to kill the fair maiden out of spite?
Somewhat similar in tone to The Tell Tale Heart and The Black Cat, this is the story of a well-to-do wealthy man’s attempt to steal the wife of a local drunkard. In the end, the rich man’s avarice is his undoing, as he’s led to a death walled into an ancient catacomb by the temptation of some particularly rare and fine wine.
An odd tale of death and possible resurrection. The narrator, who happens to be an opium addict, marries the hauntingly beautiful Ligeia, only to see her fall ill and die. Later, he marries again, but his new bride also is stricken and dies. However, her body goes through a process of slow revival after death, eventually rising from the dead as a reborn Ligeia. Did she really come back or was it all an opium dream?
Possibly the very first detective story ever written, this tale introduces the amateur sleuth C. Auguste Dupin to the world, a character that laid the groundwork for Sherlock Holmes and virtually every other literary detective since. In this tale, there are two mysterious murders, and it’s up to Dupin to use his considerable deductive reasoning to suss out the inhuman murderer.
The third poem on this list, and by far the least well-known, this one has stuck with me ever since I’ve first read it. All of human existence is but a tragic play and, in the end, it’s the worms that feast on their bodies that are the heroes. This poem was originally a part of another story on this list dealing with tragedy and death, Ligeia.
During a sea voyage, a man notices his friend has brought along this large oblong box and kept it with him in his stateroom. Every night, his friend’s wife leaves the cabin and he can hear his friend inside opening the box and sobbing throughout the night. Much like in the movie Seven, “What’s in the box?” is a very pertinent question.
Talk about some snotty rich people getting their comeuppance! This tale is about a cruel prince who seals himself and a large group of nobles into his castle to escape a plague ravaging the countryside. They decide to have a masquerade ball one evening, and a very special guest appears, the Red Death himself, there to infect them all.
Click below for more fright-filled stuff. And come back tomorrow for even more of my favorite time of year as The 13 Days of Halloween concludes…
The 13 Days of Halloween