Edgar Allan Poe’s Chaotic Drive to Unity

Jimmy Packham




In his philosophical prose-poem Eureka, Edgar Allan Poe argues that true unitynegates physical matter. By extension, disunity is a necessary part of existence.Additionally, Poe's theoretical essays stress the importance of the ‘unity ofimpression’ in writing, by which means a single effect is elaborated and sustainedthroughout a poem, and to which all aspects of that piece of writing contribute.With these theories in mind, this paper explores the drive towards unity inPoe's polar fiction, the unified space as a place of revelation, and its effect on theact of writing. These stories demonstrate a complex relationship between theantithetical states of unity and disunity; whirlpools in particular become a symbolfor this space where unity and disunity coexist. Poe's voyagers are forced to make achoice between achieving unity, and with it ultimate knowledge, at the expense ofcommunicating their discovery, and abandoning their quest and returning withnothing to communicate.


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