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Explication of Annabel Lee

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    In a healthy relationship, it is a good idea to set boundaries to not encroach on each other’s space. In Annabel Lee, Edgar Allen Poe dismisses the concept of boundaries and a unanimous self-diluted speaker theorizes how his and Annabel’s love was so intense that the angels were jealous and sent a wind that killed Annabel. Poe gives the audience a glimpse of the mind of a maniacal stalker who is so obsessed that he resorts to lying down beside his dead maiden as he himself wishes to die so he can one day rejoin her in the afterlife.

    The purpose of the first stanza is to paint a picture of the scene where the poem is taking place. It starts off as a fairy tale, telling the audience that the story we are about to hear occurred “many a year ago” in a “kingdom by the sea” (Poe1-2). Poe uses repetition to remind his audience of the location in the second line of every stanza because these minute details are significant because the sea and the kingdom are the major images of the poem and it creates a sort of hypnotizing effect on the reader, which Poe is synonymous for. In the next two lines, he introduces the main character by the name of Annabel Lee. He calls her a maiden, inferring that she is fairly young and presumably attractive, and it also keeps with the general tone of the poem. In the next two lines, Poe reveals his purpose for writing the poem, which is that he and Annabel Lee were deeply and passionately in love, so much so that all they could think about day to day was each other.

    In the second stanza, Poe gives a time frame in which the poem took place. In the first line of the second stanza, Poe lets his audience knows that he and Annabel Lee were in fact children: “I was a child and she was a child” when their love first staked its claim. This line also lets his readers know how unusual their relationship was, but at the same time, it seems unstable because their love took hold at such a young age as indicated by the last two lines of the stanza. Poe again repeats the line “In this kingdom by the sea” which paints a picture in the readers’ head of a majestic castle overlooking the sea which adds to the feeling of romance and love which is present through the poem. It also adds to the fairytale-like aspect, which is supported by the phrase “I was a child and she was a child” (Poe 7). Poe reveals to his audience that he and Annabel “loved with a love that was more than love” (Poe 9). He repeated the word love three times to put into context how intense their love was for each other, despite their age. Then Poe gets more abstract by revealing that the “seraphs”, which is another word for angel, coveted his and Annabel’s relationship due to how passionately and intensely they felt towards each other. The word covet is the essential turning point of the poem. Covet means to desire something that doesn’t belong to you. It is an especially bizarre feeling for an angel because it is not a holy sentiment and it is explicitly stated in the ninth and tenth commandments, which strictly prohibit coveting thoughts and behavior.

    The third stanza is where things start to turn against the speaker and he accuses the angels of the unfortunate turn of events. Since the angels were jealous of their love they sent a wind that blew from a cloud and killed Annabel. The speaker doesn’t explicitly say that she died but that the wind chilled her. This can make the reader think that the wind made her sick as in catching a cold, or possibly give the imagery of Annabel’s chilled, lifeless body which turns out to be one of the main images of the poem. The speaker then goes on to say that one of her family members came and took her away from him. Annabel’s family member was described as highborn, meaning he was some sort of aristocrat of upper socioeconomic status. If the speaker thought of himself as “highborn” he would have probably neglected to mention this detail. Since he does mention this, maybe there was some sort of family conflict before Annabel was taken away. This is very characteristic of Poe’s writing to work in a more multifaceted plot with minute details. Whatever unmentioned event happened within the family, the speaker makes it very clear through context that Annabel is being taken from him. Death and Annabel’s family are trying to tear them apart by shutting her up in a sepulcher, which is a large, very ornate building that is often occupied by an entire family so their souls can be together in the after life.

    In the fourth stanza, the speaker directly attributes his girlfriend’s death to the angels’ actions. He states that he and Annabel were better off on earth than the angels were in heaven and that made them resentful and angry. The speaker then rules out the possibility of it being family troubles because he repeats himself from line 13 “that is the reason” the angels killed Annabel Lee. Then the speaker is very keen to point out the fact that he is not being irrational, that in fact, it is common knowledge that everyone in the kingdom knows that the angels killed Annabel Lee. The stanza does not really add to the story but gives a glimpse of the speaker’s mental health. The whole stanza is dedicated to recapping the story of how Annabel died so this can show how traumatic her death was to him. The fact that he says “Yes!—that is the reason” (Poe 23) in line 23 he is trying to justify his theory or to even convince himself, that the angel killed Annabel out of jealousy which seems strange to begin with. Poe is repeating himself again, and each time he is adding new pieces of information, in particular, he is acknowledging Annabel’s death as a concrete event.

    In the fifth stanza, the speaker proclaims his love for Annabel Lee as eternal. His and Annabel’s relationship lasted beyond the grave, even though for most people death is the end of love. Despite their age, the speaker and Annabel loved each other completely and knew exactly what each other wanted. As indicated in the third stanza the maiden is very dependent upon other people so it is possible that the speaker made decisions for the maiden so it would have made it seem like they wanted the same things. He continues to say that even though the angels killed Annabel they cannot separate their souls from one another even after she departed.

    In the final stanza, the speaker backs up the claims that his love for Annabel is not dead. The first line of the stanza shifts from the past to the present tense that giving the impression that Annabel died some time ago but he is reflecting upon past events. The speaker then goes into grotesque details for how he still feels the presence of his Annabel Lee. Whenever the moon shines he dreams of her and when the stars appear he feels the bright eyes of Annabel upon him. This also gives the appearance that the speaker might not be that mentally sound. The images portrayed are unusually intense and very vivid. Instead of saying that the stars remind him of her eyes, he says he can feel her bright eyes gazing upon him, which can be interpreted as him physically toughing the eyes of his deceased lover as indicated later in the stanza. This is also very characteristic of Poe’s writing of a character being haunted in their dreams of deceased loves ones. Now is when the poem gets more disturbing when the speaker exactly reveals how their love has gone unbroken. Since he and Annabel cannot be separated, the speaker spends his night curled up next to her lifeless body in her tomb. Then the speaker shocks the audience by proclaiming that she is his darling, his life, and his bride even though there was no indication in the poem that they were married before her passing.

    As the poem progresses the speaker gets increasingly unstable with him being barely alive, clinging on to the body of his dead girlfriend. Poe strategically places this detail at the end so the reader looks back at the rest of the poem and can see the speaker is an older gentleman reflecting back on his life and will soon rejoin his true love in the afterlife. The poem ends the way many of Poe’s works do with an unforgettable phrase “by the sounding sea” making the reader think of the cold ocean hitting the rocks abruptly and unexpectedly, kind of like death.

    Poe is trying to construct a disturbing poem that gradually reveals that the poet is mentally unstable and obsessed with women that do not return the same affection for him. The mental state of the speaker is revealed through subtle cues throughout the poem, which helps the reader see through the speaker’s façade to see that he has nothing more than an obsession even though he is proclaiming her as his bride. In this poem, Poe captured the mind of a maniacal stalker and instilled this onto his audience, which makes this a truly memorable poem.

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    Explication of Annabel Lee. (2016, Nov 06). Retrieved from

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