Annabel Lee by Edgar Allan Poe: Summary, Analysis & Theme

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  • 0:01 Summary of Annabel Lee
  • 1:36 Structure
  • 2:09 Themes
  • 2:57 Motifs
  • 3:45 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Megan Pryor

Megan has tutored extensively and has a Master of Fine Arts Degree in Fiction.

In this lesson, we will study 'Annabel Lee,' a poem written by the Gothic writer Edgar Allan Poe. After a summary of the poem, we will analyze its structure, themes and motifs, before finishing with a short quiz.

Summary of 'Annabel Lee'

You are probably familiar with American Gothic writer Edgar Allan Poe. Perhaps you have even read his poem, 'The Raven,' or one of his short stories, such as 'The Tell-Tale Heart.' Well, Edgar Allan Poe was part of the American Romantic movement and wrote a lot of stories and poems. Today we are examining one of his well-known poems, 'Annabel Lee.'

'Annabel Lee' was the last poem Edgar Allan Poe wrote before his death in 1849. He sold the rights to it while he was still alive, but it was not published until after his death. Haunted as he was by the loss of many women in his life, including his young wife who died two years before him, Poe often wrote about women dying. 'Annabel Lee' is no exception. Since the poem was written after Poe's wife's death, it is believed that it was probably written for her.

The poem is narrated by a young man who describes himself as a 'child.' The man falls in love with a young woman named Annabel Lee. They live in a kingdom by the sea. The narrator and Annabel Lee are very happy and very in love. Their love for each other is so intense, in fact, that the seraphim in Heaven (angels) become jealous and murder Annabel Lee, by sending a wind that chills her to death. The narrator is devastated but does not give up on their love. He believes that his soul is inseparable from Annabel Lee's. Every night he dreams of her and sleeps next to her in her tomb.

Analysis

Structure

'Annabel Lee' is similar to a ballad. In addition to a differing rhyming pattern in each of the poem's six stanzas, Edgar Allan Poe repeats a lot of words. The effect of structuring a poem like this causes it to linger in the reader's mind, in addition to building meaning each time a word is repeated. One of the biggest rhymes in the poem is the love interest's name, Annabel Lee, with the location of the poem: the kingdom and Annabel Lee's tomb are both described as being 'by the sea.'

Themes

Depending on how you read the poem, there are many different themes in 'Annabel Lee.' Love is a huge theme in the poem. The narrator and Annabel Lee fell in love when they were young 'in a Kingdom by the sea.' Their love is challenged by Annabel Lee's death, but the narrator does not give up on her, believes that their souls are intertwined, and sleeps in her tomb at night.

Another strong theme in this poem is envy. The angels are so envious of the love between the narrator and Annabel Lee that they are spurred to murder Annabel Lee. The narrator describes the degree of the angels' envy by stating that they are not even 'half as happy' as he and Annabel Lee are. This shows how strong the envy is because you would imagine that angels in Heaven would be pretty happy.

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