Great Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe

Book review by
Barbara Schultz, Common Sense Media
Great Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe Book Poster Image
Collection highlights horror stories and romantic poems.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Poe's stories and poems are important educational touchstones in and of themselves. As the originator of the detective fictional genre, he wrote pieces that are at the core of many other literary works that middle and high school students will study. Readers will also get a bit of a feel for upper-class life and culture in the Eastern U.S. ("Fall of the House of Usher") and in Paris ("The Murders in the Rue Morgue," "The Purloined Letter") during the first half of the 19th century, as well as modes of scientific study during this period ("The Gold-Bug"). Poe's stories and poetry also contain French and Latin phrases, and classical Greek and Roman references; readers will need to research and learn about these.

Positive Messages

No bad deed goes unpunished in Poe's stories. Themes of death, sickness, and darkness pervade these works, and horrific murders are committed, but the souls of the perpetrators are tortured and they are always found out. Poe's few heroes, such as prototype detective C. Auguste Dupin ("The Murders in the Rue Morgue") are intelligent, analytical crime-solvers.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Poe's character C. Auguste Dupin, who solves the crimes in the stories "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" and "The Purloined Letter," is admirable for being smart, observant, and law-abiding. In "Ms. Found in a Bottle" and "A Descent into the Maelstrom," the narrators are brave and resourceful. However, many of Poe's narrators are confessional murderers. As the originator of detective fiction and one of the finest proponents of short fiction, Poe was a great and important literary figure; but his focus on the macabre and his reported abuse of opium make the author himself a dubious role model.

Violence

Horrific murders are committed in many of the stories, whether as a result of madness, alcoholism, or revenge. In one story, a body is cut up and hidden in a wall. In another, someone is killed with an axe and, again, concealed behind a wall. One story features a double-murder perpetrated by a creature of superhuman strength. In other stories, sickness takes on an evil quality, in one instance a disease makes people bleed through their pores. There's also natural violence, such as hurricanes drowning ships full of people.

Sex

The stories contain no sexual references. The poems often refer to love for someone who has died. Only the poem "Romance" includes some sexual language, mentioning pleasures that "turned to pain," "naivete to wild desire," and "wine to fire." This poem also refers to Hymen, the Greek god of marriage.

Language

The only curse word in these works is "damn." More significant is the treatment of a black character in "The Gold-Bug." A servant named Jupiter is referred to as a "negro," and more than once uses the "N" word to refer to himself; he is depicted as foolish and speaks with an exaggerated dialect, including calling his employer "massa."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Poe was reportedly a drug and alcohol user himself; his stories show characters using opium and often describe moods or atmospheres as "opiate." Many characters also drink wine or gin. In two stories, "The Cask of Amontillado" and "The Black Cat," a great deal of alcohol is consumed; the "Black Cat" narrator becomes violent when he drinks excessively.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Edgar Allan Poe's works are often required reading at the middle school or high school level. Poe is considered the originator of detective fiction, and one of the most important proponents of short fiction. His intense and beautifully written stories focus on the macabre -- themes of murder, sickness, darkness, and danger abound. Many of the stories are violent and extremely frightening: People (dead or alive) are hidden in walls by madmen, torn or cut to pieces, or tortured under unbearable conditions. Poe's poetry, while not nearly as violent, also emphasizes death, often depicting the death of a loved one or a terrible feeling of loss.

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Teen, 13 years old Written byLineyGirl2002 June 27, 2016

Short but captivating stories

The works of Edgar Allan Poe are really captivating and can be terrifying for some. For instance, The Tell-Tale Heart is just a few pages long but it really lef... Continue reading

What's the story?

Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) produced numerous works of remarkable quality in his short life. His childhood was troubled by his father's abandonment of the family, and the death of Poe's mother when he was only 2. Poe then lived with foster parents. As an adult, Poe had a checkered military career before finding success as a writer and editor. He married his 13-year-old cousin, Virginia Clemm, in 1835, but lost her to tuberculosis when she was only 20. Much of Poe's published work is said to be influenced by the death of his young wife. This collection, GREAT TALES AND POEMS OF EDGAR ALLAN POE, includes 13 of his best-known short stories (\"The Tell-Tale Heart,\" \"The Black Cat,\" \"The Fall of the House of Usher,\" \"The Pit and the Pendulum,\" etc.) and 25 poems, including famous works such as \"The Raven,\" and \"Annabel Lee.\" Poe's writings tend toward themes of murder, sickness, and death. Even his lyrical, beautiful poetry is extremely morbid. Considered a member of the Romantic movement, Edgar Allan Poe is also known as the originator of detective fiction.

Is it any good?

Edgar Allan Poe's short stories can be grim, gory, and terrifying, but wonderfully so. His brilliance lies not only in his fertile, drug-enhanced imagination, but also in his insight into the ways people think and feel; he had a remarkable talent for going inside a character's descent into madness, or his most desperate loneliness. Great Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe offers a fine representation of Poe's horror stories, such as "The Tell-Tale Heart," "The Black Cat," and "The Masque of the Red Death," as well as his early detective fiction ("The Murders in the Rue Morgue") and harrowing adventures ("A Descent into the Maelstrom"). The 25 poems in this collection include many of Poe's most famous, and heartbreakingly beautiful works: "The Raven," "The Bells, "Lenore," "Annabel Lee," and more.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the fantastical element of "The Black Cat." Are the cat's markings real, an alcoholic delusion, or a manifestation of guilt?

  • What does "The Raven" represent? What sort of emotions does the poem's narrator experience?

  • What other writers' works do you think may have been influenced by Poe's early detective fiction?

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