Eureka: A Prose Poem

The most important idea to the narrator’s view on the universe in Eureka is his monomania with “Simplicity” (Poe 1277). In dealing with the creation of what we see around us, the phenomena, he states that it is a huge rhetorical jump to move from zero to one, rather than the simpler, far shorter rhetorical leap from one to two. That instead of the universe being created from nothing, it was created from “Imparticularity” (Poe 1277) or being without particulars, thus being one. This “Oneness is a principle abundantly sufficient to account for the constitution, the existing phenomena and the plainly inevitable annihilation” of the universe (1277). If there was a creation from the simplest (One), phenomena is thus a forced and “abnormal condition of many” (1278). He then states in possibly clearer language, “I have suggested – the design of multiplicity out of unity – diversity out of sameness – complexity out of simplicity – in a word, the utmost possible multiplicity of relation out of the emphatically irrelative One” (1278). Borrowing from Occam’s Razor without specifically mentioning it, if all things being equal, the simplest will out, he states that the Universe has “a satisfiable tendency [for] the disunited atoms to return into One” (1278). The question must be arising in any reader’s head, how does this have anything to do with the creation and implications of racialized literary creations in the rest of his tales and also, how are these theories of the universe in anyway racial constructions? I ask for your patience, it is all connected, and vital to the Conclusion.

Now in the narrator’s theory of the universe, he contends that there must be forces creating “multiplicity out of unity” and also of the “return into one”. He states that the forces are of the simplest nature, magnetism; and breaking this down into two, gravity and electricity. Gravity is the result when objects become one, and electricity is the result when an object becomes separate objects (1281). And that the two forces that operate under the guise of gravity and electricity are “‘Attraction’ and ‘Repulsion.’ The former is the body; the latter the soul: the one is the material; the other the spiritual, principle of the Universe. No other principles exist” (Poe 1282). This treatise dares to unify the universe into principles that cannot be broken down further. His theory rests on gravity; more specifically, the two opposing forces of “attraction” and “repulsion”. Repulsion is the current state of the universe, everything separate and distinct from one another. From the arm to the head of an individual, to an individual from another individual, everything is distinct. However, the once and future state of being lies in the attractive force. Like gravity, Poe contends, every object, every molecule in the universe will eventually disintegrate back into the single, “primordial and irrelative One” (Poe 1289). This he explains is unavoidable and unchangeable by any being within the scope of the tyranny of the “One” and as nothing is outside of it, everything and everyone is subjected to it. But objects, including humans, desire to keep their distinctions and individualities separate from their environment. This desire is futile though, and the repulsive desires clash with the omnipotent attractions, which causes the tension. This tension between the distinctions, individuals and the tyranny of the “One” is the cause of most of the plot of many Edgar Allen Poe tales. Even though Eureka was written years subsequent to all of his tales, his idea that all objects, distinctions, and characters within an environment will eventually and entropically disintegrate into an indivisible, “principle, Unity” – is something Poe depicts in many of his tales.

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