Insanity vs. Sanity

By: Shannon Boatwright

“I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity.”
― Edgar Allan Poe

Most people have heard of and read at least some of the works of Edgar Allan Poe. I have many favorites when it comes to his stories, poems, and quotes. Currently, I am producing and directing a production with my 8th-grade honors drama students called, “Shuddersome: Tales of Poe”. This show features some of Poe’s best works, some that I had never heard of until I came across this play from TheatreFolk.com. It’s a brilliant play that pieces together Poe’s works in a very intriguing, unique and entertaining way. Of course, I’ve added my own special touch to it by incorporating music, song, and dance, adding even more depth and umph to the eerie mystery of Poe’s tales. As we’ve been working on the production, I’ve had the opportunity to dive deeper into the life of Poe and learn more about his tragic world.

I’d always been fascinated by his quote, “I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity.” My thoughts go in many different directions when I think on this quote. I think of the times I wish I could just sleep and stay in my dreams, or never wake from my fantasies. I think of how the busyness and stress of my life make me feel insane at times, yet it’s the moments of boring normalcy when creative busyness does not overtake my life, that I feel crazy in my saneness. Is it because in all the moments when I’m so busy, I don’t have the time nor energy to think too much about things? Probably. It’s a fascinating topic for sure.

It is said that when Poe wrote this statement about being insane and claiming his intervals of sanity as horrible, that he was describing his dealing with his wife’s illness. Having to battle through the ups and downs of his wife’s horrible sickness really did him in. To cope he drank alcohol excessively, I think to provide that little bit of escape into insanity. I believe it’s the moments of terrible reality, the stress of caring for his wife as she suffered so much with tuberculosis, that gave him his horrible moments of sanity. Most of the people Poe cared about died. He really did live quite a tragic life. I can only imagine going through all the loss he experienced, and part of me cannot blame him for having moments of madness, releasing the angst and horror of life through words.

I could probably write a blog post for every single one of his famous quotes. There are so many mysterious and poignant words from Poe that instigate all sorts of interesting discussions. I’m sure there are many different interpretations of them all too, which in my mind, is a sign of an excellent writer promoting and instigating deep thought.

What are your favorite works of Poe and your interpretations of his words?

7 thoughts on “Insanity vs. Sanity

  1. My favorite Edgar Allen Poe work is the Oval Portrait because it is the most relatable. If you sit for a long period of time, you feel like your soul is slowly leaving you.

  2. I learned a great deal about Poe that I never knew! I have to admit that his works were always a bit macabre for my tastes, but now I have a greater appreciation for why they were so. 🙂

  3. I love all of Edgar Allen Poe’s work and the story of his life is just so interesting. I think his work is an odd way of showing the story of his thoughts in a sick twisted way.

    • His life truly was tragic, and his quote is almost like a paradox. Many people wish for the sane moments where everything is normal, but the same thing without variety can drive people insane, which is why the line between sane and insane can be so uncertain. Many people that have been considered insane, such as Poe, have actually done amazing things, whch brings up a real question: is insanity always a bad thing?

  4. My favorite Poe story is hop frog because it is the most interesting. I believe that Poe wrote stories as a way to get what he was thinking on to paper. He must have needed a way for others to know what he was thinking when no one around him cared to listen. I think this because when he was young he wrote a poem titled Alone and through his works many characters are alone and/or tormented by something.

  5. His life truly was tragic, and his quote is almost like a paradox. Many people wish for the sane moments where everything is normal, but the same thing without variety can drive people insane, which is why the line between sane and insane can be so uncertain. Many people that have been considered insane, such as Poe, have actually done amazing things, which brings up a real question: is insanity always a bad thing?

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