Which American Writer Was Expelled from West Point for Marching in the Nude?

You know those random facts? The ones that only seem to come in handy during an awkward lull in conversation at cocktail parties? For example, more monopoly money is printed in a year than real money throughout the world. The average person laughs 13 times a day. Human dreams last only 2-3 seconds. Facts like that. They won’t necessarily change the world, although the dream one is an interesting insight into the human brain, but they always seem to pop up at odd times none the less, whether they are true or not. They also live in abundance on the internet.

It is my interest in random fun facts and trivia that made me glob on to Lit Wit, a set of literary trivia cards that I got for my birthday last week. Categories include authors, titles, texts, and genres. I read through most of the deck in a night, and am hoping that these random facts will come in handy during trivial pursuit. Who knows when you will need random literary facts in life?

My favorite question, and the one that has stuck with me the longest, brings me back to the title of this post: Which American writer was expelled from West Point for reporting to march wearing nothing but white gloves?

My first thought was Ernest Hemingway – since he writes frequently about war and battle, it would make sense that he attended West Point at some point in his life. But at the same time, I feel that he was invested so deeply in honoring one’s country that he would not pull such an act unless he was sufficiently drunk.

My next thought was maybe one of the beat poets like Kerouac or Ginsberg. Beat poetry was a sort of stick-it-to-the-man era, and strutting around military school in the nude could be seen as some sort of heroic protest at the time. But once again I was wrong.

The correct answer is (drum roll please): Edgar Allan Poe. Yes, after being unable to support himself, Poe joined the army and later attended West Point. Troubles with his foster family at this time caused them to disown Poe, and he decided to leave West Point by marching in the nude and missing classes, formations, and church services. (Background info on Poe’s life is from the ever-trusty Wikipedia)

So there you have it. Before Poe started raving about ravens and married his 13 year old first cousin, he was kicked out of West Point for marching in the nude. He was also the first famous American author to try and make a career out of writing with no “real job” on the side. Maybe that contributed to the darkness of his writing and with the struggles that he faced during his lifetime. Which is why I was so surprised, I guess, that he would do such a jovial thing as walk around military school naked. Who knew?

Anyway, I just thought that was an interesting tid bit of information. I guess the fact that I find this kind of thing interesting pegs me as a nerd, particularly of the book variety. That, and my Charles Dickens action figure that I got from The Strand a few months ago.

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