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?