Edgar Allen Poe wrote and published his short story, “The Man That Was Used Up”, as a military parody as a response to the Trail of Tears and criticize America’s history of violent aggression against native cultures. In America during the 1830s, the Native Americans lived on millions of acres, spreading across land in Florida, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee, that their ancestors had owned for many generations.
The federal government, that was created by the settlers of England and founding fathers of America, sought to grow cotton in the Native land, eventually forcing them to leave their homelands and travel on foot, thousands of miles to relocate in designated Indian territory, which was chosen by the government. They believed their intentions to relocate the Native Americans was to “civilize” them by converting them to Christianity, teaching them English to communicate, verbally and educationally, and showing them copied practices, such as owning land.
The white settlers defended their intentions to be beneficial for the Natives and themselves, but their actions proved it was for selfish wants of better land to grow cotton on and committed mass murders to achieve it. “The Man That Was Used Up” was published a year after the Trail of Tears occurred, as a parodical response to portray how the Americans accepted cultural dominance, since they benefitted extremely from it.
One of the most well-known military leaders, during the wars between Natives and Americans, was General John A. B. C. Smith, or John Smith, which can be noted in several writings, movies, and historical documents. Edgar Allen Poe recognized John Smith in his short story, “The Man That Was Used Up”, as a war hero for his brave role in the fight against the Bugaboo and Kickapoo Native American tribes. Poe describes Smith by stating, ‘nothing could be more richly flowing, or possess a brighter gloss. It was of a jetty black,- which was also the color, or more properly the no-color of his unimaginable whiskers.
You perceive I cannot speak of these latter without enthusiasm; it is not too much to say that they were the handsomest pair of whiskers under the sun. At all events, they encircled, and at times partially overshadowed, a mouth utterly unequalled. Here were the most entirely even, and the most brilliantly white of all conceivable teeth. From between them, upon every proper occasion, issued a voice of surpassing clearness, melody, and strength” (Poe), which allowed his readers to get an understanding that Smith was very handsome and a war hero, making it seem nearly impossible not to like him.
However, Poe establishes at the beginning of the short story that he does not have a good feeling of John Smith, but is puzzled by what is making him feel bothered of this veteran soldier. Although the Bugaboo tribe in the short story is fake, the Kickapoo Indians were actually related to a tribe located north Texas, where the Shawnee, Kickapoo, and Cherokee tribes joined forces to fight in the Cherokee War of 1839 and was going on in the spring and summer, right before Poe’s story was published. Poe wanted to reveal a theme of the Native Americans and United States to his readers and establish its importance, and mentioning a famous war hero who survived many battles against the Natives would give his story a topic of interest.
After the Trail of Tears occurred in America, many bystanders, such as writers, actors, neighboring countries, had commentary on how the United States acted towards the Natives and their selfish intentions that affected them negatively. Edgar Allen Poe used his short story, “The Man That Was Used Up”, to exemplify what many of the bystanders wanted to express themselves. Throughout the short story, Poe introduces General John A. B. C. Smith and establishes that he feels bothered by him, but not being aware of what is making him feel array.
Smith is a veteran war hero during a Native American War, and is handsome and highly talked about in the community Poe resides in, making many of his readers ponder what could throw him off about Smith. When the narrator communicated with many individuals about Smith, they all referred to and reiterated, “We are a wonderful people, and live in a wonderful age” (Poe), but not to praise Smith for any present actions, only the ones made in the past and, perhaps focusing more on what happened during the course of the era, such as technological and mechanical devices, rail roads, and many other advantages.
Poe wanted to make his readers aware of the critical responses, because the people of this time wanted to justify the Indian removal and the terrible decisions made by the United States to promote such doings; He also noted his satire on the ideals of American Exceptionalism. As the short story comes to an end, Poe states, “I acknowledged his kindness in my best manner, and took leave of him at once, with a perfect understanding of the true state of affairs- with a full comprehension of the mystery which had troubled me so long. It was evident. It was a clear case. Brevet Brigadier General John A. B. C. Smith was the man- the man that was used up.” (Poe), to conclude his response towards the misbehavior of the United States during the time of the Trail of Tears and Indian removal.
In conclusion, Edgar Allen Poe wanted to use his short story, “The Man That Was Used Up”, as a parody response on the Trail of Tears and the Indian removal, during the 1830s. He mentions well-known, historical figures, such as General John A. B. C. Smith, Andrew Jackson, and Lyndon Johnson, to support his readers understanding of people wanting to focus on the actions of them that were made in the past, but disregard the actions that were followed after their successes. Poe uses this to criticize the ideals of American Exceptionalism that took place during this time, in order to justify bad decisions.