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The Themes of Edgar Allan Poe

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Aaron Jones

on 17 December 2013

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Transcript of The Themes of Edgar Allan Poe

The Themes of Edgar Allan Poe
Mental Instability
-Poe is “concerned with the
theme of human dissociation
from the divine and the
consequent longing to return to it...”

Love in "The Raven"
- The poem describes the narrator suffering from the loss of his love.
- “Sorrow for the lost Lenore- / For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels named Lenore-...”
“Death is one of the few things that cannot be fixed or reversed, and the enormity of it is therefore entirely appropriate for the exaggerated emotion in Poe’s work”
Death from Murder
"The Tell-Tale Heart"
- In fear of the old man’s pale blue eye, the narrator of “The Tell-Tale Heart” concludes to murder him
-He suffocates the old man with a mattress in the middle of the night, dismembers
is body, and proceeds
to hide the remains under the
“The Masque of the Red Death”
Death takes many symbolic forms in Poe’s work. In “The Masque of the Red Death,” death becomes personified as a murderous being.
Background Information
- January 19, 1809- October 7, 1849
- Son of two actors
- Foster parents: John and Francis
- Virginia University
- Enlisted in the army
- Author, poet, editor, literary
critic (considered part of the
American Romantic Movement)
- Major themes:
1. Mental instability
2. Love
3. Death

In “Eleonora," Poe writes, “Men have called me mad; but the question is not yet settled, whether madness is not of the loftiest intelligence...”
- The progress of the pendulum in
“The Pit and the Pendulum” is “maddeningly slow”

- In “The Masque of the Red Death,”
- costumes described as “delirious
fancies such as a madman”
- The "dream" guests are also
referred to as “mad revelers”
- The masked figure of Death takes
the characteristics of madness as
his "mad assumptions" have the
effect of evoking "awe" in the
other guests
Love in "Annabel Lee"
- “But our love it was stronger by
far than the love / Of those who were older than we”
- “But we loved with a love that was more than love”
- “For the moon never beams without bringing me dreams / Of the beautiful Annabel Lee”
- “My beautiful Annabel Lee”
- “the beautiful Annabel Lee”
- “my darling- my life and my bride”
Death of a Beautiful Woman
- "Always haunting him was the
thought of death in love, of the death of his mother, then of the death of a woman he loved, then of the death of his foster mother, and finally of his wife."
- The poem “Annabel Lee” describes a man’s incredible love for his dear Annabel Lee. The last line says that she laid “in her tomb by the side of the sea.”

Death of Beautiful Woman
- “The Raven” in its entirety tells
a tale of a man who is grieving over the death of his love. In order to establish the proper extreme of grief, he needs to be absolutely drained of any hope of seeing her again.

- In “Ligeia,” the narrator’s love, Ligeia, falls mysteriously ill and, after reading a poem she composed, shrieks a prayer about the unfairness of tragedy and dies.
Death from Murder
"The Black Cat"
-The unnamed narrator becomes
enraged at his wife for defending the new cat and “buries an axe in her head.”
- After murdering his wife, he decides to conceal the corpse in the loosely constructed walls of the cellar.
Death from Murder
"The Cask of Amontillado”
Montresor traps Fortunato in a vault after chaining him to the wall and leaves him to die
In “Berenice,” the narrator states
he is awakening from a long night
into “a palace of imagination” and “wild dominions of monastic thought and erudition.”

Strange Conditions of the Mind
- In “The Fall of the House of Usher," the writer (Roderick
Usher) “spoke of acute bodily illness- of a mental disorder which oppressed him”

-The narrator from “The Tell-Tale Heart” is “a man driven to murder out of obsession and madness.”
Strange Conditions of the Mind
In “The Masque of the Red Death,” the “bizarre” figures which occupy the Prince’s masquerade ball may merely be “figments of his
mad imagination.
"The Masque of the Red Death"
“Poe evokes a dark and eerie mood in a story that focuses on an image of blood and death”
A group of a thousand guests, along with Prince Prospero, “indulge in a lavish costume ball in order to distract themselves from the suffering and death outside their walls.”

The Red Death, disguised as a costumed guest,enters and claims the lives of everyone present
"The Masque of the Red Death"
"The Masque of the Red Death"
The fact that the Red Death slips in “like a thief in the night” to claim the lives of everyone present symbolizes that no one can escape death, which eventually claims all mortals.
"The Masque of the Red Death"
Because Death possesses humanlike characteristics throughout the tale, one can assume it can be thought of as a physical person.
Edgar Allan Poe’s
idiosyncratic themes
allows him to loom as one
of the more unique and
exceptional authors of the nineteenth century. The recurrent themes of mental instability, love, and death, and how he explored them, are what made him one of the most prolific writers of his time. People are still fascinated with his early examination of themes that were forbidden in social conversation.
Even to this day, people still
seek to understand the
method to his madness.
Giordano, Robert. PoeStories.com: An Exploration of Short Stories
by Edgar Allan

Poe. PoeStories.com. 27 June 2005. Web. 13 Nov. 2013

Haugen, Hayley Matchell, ed. The Short Stories of Edgar Allan
Poe. San Diego:Greenhaven, 2001. Print.
Lenner, Arthur. “Edgar Allan Poe.” Psychoanalytical Oriented
Criticism of Three American Poets: Poe, Whitman, and Aiken. Rutherford: Fainleigh Dickinson UP, 1970. 43-62. Rpt. in Nineteenth- Century Literature Criticism. Ed. Lynn M. Zott. Vol. 117. Detroit: Gale, 2003. Literature Resources. Web. 14 Nov. 2013

Milne, Ira Mark, eds. “‘The Masque of the Red Death,’ Edgar Allan
Poe. 1842.” Short Stories for Students: Presenting Analysis,
Context, and Criticism on Commonly Studied Short Stories. Vol. 1.
Detroit: Gale, 2000. Print.

Napierkowski, Marie Rose, and Mary K. Ruby, eds. “‘The Raven,’
Edgar Allan Poe, 1845.” Poetry for Students: Presenting Analysis, Context, and Criticism on Commonly Studied Poetry. Vol. 1. Detroit: Gale, 1998. Print.

“Poe’s Short Stories: Edgar Allan Poe.” sparknotes. Spark Notes
LLC. 2012. Web. 18 Nov. 2013 <www.sparknotes.com/lit/poestories/section9.html>.
Works Cited
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