Archive | February 21, 2014

Misunderstanding Edgar Allen Poe

I don’t read a lot of Poe, but his tales are deliciously thrilling and often tragic tales of the consequences of doing evil.

I’m watching The Following on Netflix.  It’s a show about a cult of murders who have chosen Poe as their icon.  Poor E.A.P.  The vast number of mostly brainwashed murderers in this series think they are awesome for what they are doing.  Nothing could be farther from the truth: Just about any person on this planet has the ability to murder someone else, to hurt someone else.  It’s not a unique or even special gift, no matter how elaborately done.  The rarer gift is that of mercy, of edifying people (I need to remind myself of this more often than I do).

The murderers in The Following can’t hold a candle to Poe.  Poe was a genius of a writer, the essential inventor of the Sherlock Holmes stories we all still love today.  His stories were most thrilling because of one element: Horror.  Horror, not simply murder.  Poe considered himself a genius (rightly), these murderers consider themselves genius, I get it.  They don’t seem to get, however, that the horror of stories like the “Tell-Tale Heart” are entirely due to guilt and the killer’s own fear of death.  These people are sadly misunderstanding Poe.

That’s not to say The Following isn’t an interesting, thought-provoking series.  It’s just a shame that Poe’s great body of work is so often reduced today to nothing more than the worship of death and killing.  I for one, don’t think that’s what Poe was really about.  Was he plagued with problems?  Sure.  What being walking this planet isn’t?

What do you think?  What’s your perspective on Poe?