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A Dream Within a Dream by Edgar Allan Poe

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Kristen Zumbrunn

on 10 December 2013

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Transcript of A Dream Within a Dream by Edgar Allan Poe

A Dream Within a Dream
by Edgar Allan Poe
Alyssa Thomas and Kristen Zumbrunn
Edgar Allan Poe
Edgar Allan Poe was a troubled man with a unfortunate life that inspired his work to have a dark, deep, and emotional feel.
The audience is the woman he is leaving. The speaker addresses her when he says, “Take this kiss upon the brow, and in parting from you now.” (lines 1-2) This is a conversation poem in which he is agreeing with her after she suggests that life is all a dream. She sparks the main idea of the poem and he elaborates on it to her.
Imagery is used throughout the poem. There is visual imagery when the poem says “kiss upon the brow.” (line 1) There is also visual imagery when the poem says, “golden sand,” (line 15) “pitiless wave,” (line 22) and when the poem repeats the weeping with such emphasis. There is auditory and visual imagery when the poem says “the roar of a surf-tormented shore.” (lines 12-13) There is visual and tactile imagery when the poem says “how they creep through my fingers.” (lines 16-17). The imagery occurs mostly in the second stanza.
Metaphors, Similes, Personifications, & Metonymy
The whole poem is an extended metaphor because the speaker is saying life is a dream and explaining how it infact is a dream. “Yet, how they creep” (line 16) is a personification of the sand creeping. “Hope has flown away” (line 6) is also a personification. Metonymy is in the poem when it says “the deep” (line 17) to represent the ocean. There isn’t simile, but there is apostrophe when the poem says “oh god! can I not grasp?” (line 19).
Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
Thus much let me avow-
You are not wrong, who deem
That my days have been a dream;
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone?
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.

I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand-
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep- while I weep!
O God! can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?
The diction of the poem includes words that are not commonly used in today’s english language. The diction reflects the time period of the early 1800’s. The diction also includes detailed words that give the poem imagery. “Avow” (line 3) reflects the time period because it is an old word that simply means to confess. “Surf-tormented” (line 13) allows the reader to feel the crowdedness of the beach. “Pitiless wave” (line 22) shows how ruthless and hard the waves are coming in.
The poem is allegorical in which life represents a dream. Within the poem though, there are symbols. The sand represents lifes events falling into disappearance and the past which is represented by the ocean.
The tone of the poem is depressed and contemplative. The tone is achieved when the speaker says “while I weep- while I weep” (line 18) and when he questions god in desperation asking “can I not save one from a pitiless wave?” (lines 21-22). The setting also adds to the tone with the “roar of the surf-tormented shore.” (lines 12-13).
It is ironic that the speaker is in a dream, which has a happy connotation, but he is weeping and can’t hold on to anything. Rather than the speaker being upset with reality, he is upset with fantasy.
Central Purpose
The purpose of the poem is to explain to the woman and others that he does agree that life is all a dream.
The poem starts with the speaker kissing a woman goodbye. It is clear by his urgency that he has to part from her soon. She brings up to him that life is dream. He agrees with her and he starts talking about why he agrees with her. He says hope is gone, but it doesn’t matter when it leaves. There is no permanence to any of life’s features. The setting then changes to the speaker standing on the beach trying to grasp the sand. (if life is a dream then setting can change that drastically.) The speaker weeps because he can not hold the golden sand, which represents life’s events, and he loses the sand to “the deep” which represents the disappearance of life’s pleasures. Nothing in reality is permanent, and the speaker ends his explanation as to why life is a dream.
Central Idea
The central idea of the poem is that reality is not permanent and never completely tangible, and life is essentially a dream.
Lose of Family & Loved Ones
He lost his parents when he was three years old
Poe was separated from his siblings when he was very young
His fiancee, Elmira Royster, became engaged to another man while she was engaged to Poe
Frances Allan, who had been like a mother to him passed away before he could return to Richmond
His first wife, Virginia passed away in the winter of 1847
Struggle with Poverty
1826, University of Virginia. He had a large amount of debt after his first term.
Poe turned to gamblin to raise funds to pay for university, but ended up in more debt
His own cousin stole from him.
John Allan left poe out of his will
He attempted to start his own journal, but couldn't find the money to complete it
Setting in Time
The setting can be determined by the diction and Poe’s lifetime and is around the early 1800’s.
The occasion is a parting from a person, place, and life.
Let me kiss you on your forehead
and before I leave
let me confess
you aren’t wrong, when you say
that my life is a dream
but if hope is gone
if it left at night or day
does that really matter? it’s still gone.
all we experience
is life as a dream within a dream

I stand in the noise
of the crowded ocean side
and my hands hold
some of the golden sand
there are so few because they slip
through my fingers into the ocean
and I cry and cry
Oh god, why can I not hold on
to the grains of sand more tightly?
Oh god, can one not fall
into the ocean?
Is everything about life
A dream within a dream?
The meter is kind of iambic trimeter.
“How few yet how they creep” (line 16).
Based on Jim Harvey's speech structures
Published in 1820's
There is repetition in the poem. The repetition of “weep” and “oh god” show emotion and desperation of the speaker. “But a dream within a dream” is repeated constantly and seems to be emphasizing the contemplation of life being a dream.
Setting in Place
In the first stanza, there is no real setting all we know is that the speaker and the woman are seperating. In the second stanza, it is clear that the speaker is on the beach because he says, "I stand amid the roar of the surf-tormented shore" (line 12-13) and he holds "golden sand." (line 15)
There are two stanzas. The poem is completely made up of couplets with the ends of every line rhyming. The rhyme scheme is constant and is AAABBCCDDEEFFGGHHHII.
The speaker is a mysterious and confused man who has just departed from a woman and is contemplating life with respect to its reality and fantasy.
The speaker states in this poem that he is life is a dream within a dream. The purpose is to confirm to his woman that he does agree with her. Although sad, he is aware that in his case, reality is not permanenet and nothing is fully tangible. This poem means that in life, things are going to fade away or change. It also means that, like a dream, life goes by fast. The good things in life are gone too soon, and that's why he is weeping during his departure. We liked his extended metaphor, how he used the imagery of the sand slipping through his fingers no matter how hard he gripped, and his emotion and genuine feeling throughout the poem. He puts so much emotion into the poem when parting from his lover and when he is weeping on the beach. We thought that there could have been more imagery and setting in the first stanza. We did not like how he left an open ending instead of a resolution. All in all, the poem was great and probably one of Poe's best. There is so much meaning in the poem and it can be used on multiple occasions and apply to many people.
Critcism & Analysis
Full transcript