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  1. Aceldama

    Aceldama Active Member

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    The black cat by Poe

    Discussion in 'Book Discussion' started by Aceldama, Nov 5, 2019.

    So I was reading last night and came across the short story the black cat by Edgar Allen Poe. The app I use has mostly older books that are public domain and sometimes there is a preface or a note from the editor. I began reading the story thinking that I was reading an introduction to the story by Poe. I began to think about what a terrible wretch the man must be! Gouge out a cats eye and the hang the poor Kitty on a tree?? What a psycho. It wasn't until I got to the part where the character murders his wife that it clicked oooh this is the story lol. Figured that was a heck of an introduction lol.

    It made me think though, what types of similarities there actually we're between his character and himself. In it the character is an obvious drunk and Poe himself died due to complications stemming from alcohal. Anyone to have met such a tragic fate would no doubt have been drunk quite a bit and alcoholics carry traits that are far from ideal. Lines like these,


    "through the instrumentality of the Fiend Intemperance -- had (I blush to confess it) experienced a radical alteration for the worse. I grew, day by day, more moody, more irritable, more regardless of the feelings of others. I suffered myself to use intemperate language to my wife."

    Describing basically moody, intolerable drunken behavior.

    "But my disease grew upon me -- for what disease is like Alcohol ! -- and at length even Pluto, who was now becoming old, and consequently somewhat peevish -- even Pluto began to experience the effects of my ill temper."

    His affliction growing.

    _

    Though the story is just a story it made me reflect on the type of person Poe really was. I shudder to think of him harming or killing innocent animals, or being abusive to his wife. As far as I know there is no evidence he did anything of the kind. It's just kind of disheartening though that he was basically a drunk and being someone who used to consume copious amounts of alcohol for many years I can only imagine the sort of things the demon of booze had had him doing. Regardless he will always be a staple of American literature and his verse and stories, though not everyones' cup of coffee, have influenced and fascinated countless readers.
     
  2. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 Active Member

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    Well, Poe was certainly not abusive to his wife. IIRC, she died young and he spent years pining over her ("the lost Lenore" of The Raven). What it did give him though was a fascination with women dying young.
     
  3. Aceldama

    Aceldama Active Member

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    Some of his best poems were no doubt inspired by that tragedy. Consequently fueling his addiction to I would assume.
     
  4. EFMingo

    EFMingo A Nefarious Flamingo Staff Contributor

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    If you want to see his addressing of alcoholism in full-swing, read Casque of the Amontillado. My favorite Poe story, and one of my favorite short stories in general.
     
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  5. Aceldama

    Aceldama Active Member

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    Cool, I will.
     
  6. JLT

    JLT Contributor Contributor

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    What struck me about the story was that a sociopath started down his way to his ruin through torturing and killing animals. We now know that this behavior is a major indicator of a person ending up as a killer or spouse abuser, and are almost always red flags. That Poe had this insight a century and a half ago is startling. But then, he was a more perceptive social critic than people give him credit for.

    As for his alcoholism, I don't think that had anything to do with him personally abusing people or animals. Rather, he recognized that the condition could be a way for a person to numb himself to the reality of the his personality that he disliked... a form of self-medication, the way people now use alcohol or drugs to ease their own psychological distresses these days. He could see that tendency in his own life history, and he brought that realism into his story, although his behavior took a different turn to that of his character's.

    And there seems to be a bit of a controversy as to what actually killed him. There are some people who believe that he was found out as a spy, poisoned, and left in a gutter by his assassin or assassins, who doused him with alcohol to make it appear that he had died while on a bender. The truth will probably never be known, unless his body can be exhumed and tested for other drugs.
     
  7. Aceldama

    Aceldama Active Member

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    Well I don't think just because the people in Poe's time were from centuries ago that they didn't realize that you should keep on eye on someone abusing animals. I would argue it doesn't take a modern psychological opinion to determine that a person like that has some screws loose.

    I would also argue that self medication is bull. It's an excuse for indulgence. In some cases it may start out as such but will invariably lead to dependence. There really is no dancing around the issue. I love Poe's work but I won't make excuses for anyone's behavior.

    I do think it's interesting to wonder about the circumstances of his death though. I figured they determined what they did because they did exhume his body. What's the deal with assassin's? Why would Poe be a target by such?
     
  8. JLT

    JLT Contributor Contributor

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    I resisted answering this for a day, because I wanted to make sure I was expressing myself correctly.

    Aceldama, I don't know what path your life has taken, but I have met many, many people who have seen "self-medication" as a necessary part of coping with life. For them, it's not indulgence, but a simple choice between being in pain or not being in pain, whether the pain is physical or spiritual. I could name myself as one of them, since I have been in pain of some sort every single day for the past fifty-four years as the result of an auto accident I was in as a teenager. When it's bad, the temptation to ease it is always with me. True, I have not succumbed to the point of addiction, but that's only because the pain usually hasn't been great enough; if it were greater, or more persistent, self-medication would be much more tempting to me. It's a "There but for the grace of God, go I" situation.

    So let's not be so quick as to write off every addiction as "indulgence." Instead, talk to PTSD survivors, rape survivors, disaster survivors ... they're not hard to find. Find out for yourself what drove them to seek out that "surcease from sorrow" that Poe himself wrote about. I'll grant you that some have taken the easy way out, but for others, it's the only way because other forms of treatment or self-discipline just haven't worked. Many of them end up as suicides, because even the self-medication fails them in the long run, and I highly doubt that there are many people who kill themselves on a whim.

    It's a complicated story, one I learned when I lived in Baltimore some years back. There's some speculation that Poe was an "intelligencer" ... a spy ... who was investigating a group of secessionists prior to the Civil War (Maryland was a slave state, but later sided with the Union when war came twelve years later). What made it suspicious was that when he was found delirious on a Baltimore street a few days before his death, he was dressed in clothes that were not his own, suggesting that he was impersonating somebody else at the time. When his identity was discovered (the story goes), he was poisoned, and his death was made to look like the result of a bender. He died without having recovered his senses. Shortly after, the medical records of his treatment in his last days (and his autopsy, if one was performed) disappeared after his death.

    An alternative narrative suggests that he was coerced into participating in a sort of election fraud known as "cooping." An explanation can be found at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cooping

    The controversy was the subject of the book Midnight Dreary: The Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe by historian John Evangelist Walsh.
     
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  9. Aceldama

    Aceldama Active Member

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    I shouldn't have made such a broad generalization. It really depends on the circumstances of an individual in terms of physical illness or problems. There's methods to alleviating pain that doesn't involve habitual drug use though. I actually know a guy who has fibromyalgia and there hasn't been any medication that has worked. He just deals with it.

    Spiritual problems are a different matter. You can't treat spiritual issues with drugs and expect any sort of improvement. They damage your spiritual well-being. End up with more problems then you had when you started. The only reason self discipline fails is if you fail to discipline yourself.

    I was a meth, alcohal, xanex, and pot addict for a long time. Over ten years. As well whatever else I could get. To treat my "problems" which in hindsight didn't help one iota. In fact the opposite. Addiction has plauged my family and I will in no way ever be okay with any sort of illicit drug use. For recreation or otherwise. I can and do help addicts though any way I can that is beneficial for them because I know what they black hole is like.

    __

    I actually read every section of Poe's Wikipedia entry last night. His death was quite mysterious indeed. I suppose the only ones who truly know what happened to him are him and God.
     
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  10. JLT

    JLT Contributor Contributor

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    There's a new book out by Michael Pollan called "How to Change Your Mind" which presents a different picture. He talks about several rigorous therapies using drugs to help people with certain personality distresses such as clinical depression and PTSD. I suggest you check it out. Of course, these are under rigidly controlled conditions, with skilled therapists, so they really can't be compared to casual drug use, but I think that users are looking for that same door, even if they're going about it all wrong.


    Thank you for your response. I think I understand you a little better now, and can see how you might have seen your penchant for drugs as an "indulgence" (as you put it) rather than an attempt at self-medication. But, if it isn't too personal a question, may I ask what worked for you to bring you away from drug use? And what did you identify your "problems" as? I'm curious to know, since your path has apparently been different from that of the people I know, who are basically looking for relief from chronic, debilitating pain.

    And I do know of other non-drug methods for dealing with pain. I use many of them myself. And I have great respect for your friend's struggle with fibro. That's a bitch.
     
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  11. EFMingo

    EFMingo A Nefarious Flamingo Staff Contributor

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    I had this as well, but with alcohol and tobacco. Drank and smoked myself nearly to death a number of times, almost drowned twice from laying on my back when sleeping while on a binge. I try to help others in this downswing as well. That black hole gets imposing real fast. It's an endless struggle to find the perfect level, but never actually getting there. Good on you for making it out alive as well. Not that many do. I put myself through quite the punishment to do it. I imagine yours was much the same.
     
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  12. Aceldama

    Aceldama Active Member

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    Took a lot of being honest with myself. Realizing that kind lifestyle always ends the same way. I knew it wasn't a good idea. Honestly I prayed a lot. Worked on my relationship with God.

    My main problem was just being okay with myself. Not letting rejection kill me.
     
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  13. Aceldama

    Aceldama Active Member

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    Yup. A lot of unnecessary punishment. It's tragic to me, to see people harm themself in such a way. I'm happy to hear you made it out.
     
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  14. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I read a lot of Poe when I was younger (assigned reading mostly) and I always got the feeling he was a very tormented soul. He is classified as a Horror writer in many spheres, but there seems a world of difference between him and the 'happy horror' writers of today, who write Horror because they enjoy the thrill of being scared, or are writing for people who are willing to pay for that thrill.

    Real horror is more like what Poe wrote, I reckon. He always seemed to be teetering on the brink of doom, and a very sad man ...sad, in the sense that he seemed consumed with sorrow and depression. I felt quite sorry for him, actually. I didn't know about his strange death till reading this thread, though. Yeeks. Awww. The poor guy....
     
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  15. Aceldama

    Aceldama Active Member

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    I found him to be honest and original. Intuitive, with charged verse. You definitely get the sense of some kind of deepness with his poetry.

    His death is sad. He died two years after his wife. That must have crushed him.

    R.I.P Poe.
     

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