I was asked once, if I could travel back in time to meet a great author, who would it be? Being the bibliophile that I am, names came flooding forward at such a fast rate that I couldn’t keep up with my own whimsical fancies. Homer. Shelley. Wordsworth. Twain. Austen. Hell, I’d happily sit down at a dinner table with any, or preferably all of them, to discuss their works.
I’d ask questions that have plagued theorists and literature majors for centuries. I’d beseech these great writers to tell me the influences behind their works. I’d go tête-à-tête with the greatest writers and thinkers of mankind. I’d ask them to reveal to me the secrets of their heroes and heroines. The thought of getting to know the real Mr. Darcy and Victor Frankenstein was enthralling. I’d ask them to explain to me the reasoning behind their themes. As an English major, an anachronistic dinner with my favorite writers would be too much for me to bare. I’d probably die of happiness before the first meal.
And then it hit me. The one author I would definitely want to meet was Poe. What would I ask him? Where would I begin? Which tale would I bring up? Which poem should I ask him to explain to me? Questions and questions raced through my mind.
As the impossible possibility of meeting one of my favorite writers excited me, a sense of sadness started to creep its way into my mind. What if Poe disappointed me? Yes, disappoint me. What if the brilliant mind behind “The Pit and the Pendulum,” “The Tell Tale Heart,” and “The Raven” was not what I had envisioned.
We were taught, and we continue to teach, that Poe lived a dark life. He’d lost so many loved ones, females at that, to sickness. He was an alcoholic, and I’m sure he dabbled in other recreational spirits of his day. And it was because of this supposed historical background that I, along with every other student of American Literature, picture the epitome of American Gothic when discussing the writings of the famous Edgar Allan Poe. It is with this dark picture in mind that we analyze his somber and macabre works.
What if I asked him to explain the significance and the symbolism behind his infamous raven? Would I hear in reply the ingenious machinations of a symbolic creature? or the harrowing ramblings of a melancholic drunkard. Would I unfortunately hear in reply, “my dear reader, the raven whom you believed symbolizes the darkest and deepest sorrows in my life is not so. The raven, I’m afraid to tell you, is just that, and no more. I was pestered and pestered one day by a bird tapping at my door, and put feather to paper to immortalize the infamous creature that annoyed me like no other.”
And that my friends, would be the end of my time traveling days. I’d return a weak and weary traveler saddened by the ugly reality that Poe’s Raven, to me, was Nevermore.