An Analysis of Edgar Allen Poe's Annabel Lee

Essay by Claudiaisabella July 2004

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1. Introduction

Edgar Allen Poe was born 1809 as the son of the teenage actors Elisabeth Arnold and David Poe Junior in Richmond, Virginia. Since both parents died when he was young, he was raised by the merchant John Allen. Poe studied at the University of Virginia, but left it in 1827 after a quarrel with Allen in order to search for his fathers relatives in Baltimore. There he published his first volume of poems, Tamerlane and other Poems, and married his thirteen-year old cousin, Virginia Clemm. With his wife and her mother he moved to Richmond, Philadelphia, and later to New York City, working for magazines and newspapers in both cities. Though Poe's horror tales were written for the popular taste of the reading public, he actually earned his national reputation through his critical essays and sketches. In 1845 Poe published his most famous piece of work, The Raven, with which his fame was guaranteed.

Privately, though, he was not succeeding so well: after his wife died of tuberculosis in 1847 he started drinking uncontrollably and became increasingly ill. He died on a trip to Baltimore, four days after being found near a polling booth on Election Day.

Edgar Allen Poe's poem Annabel Lee was first printed in Rufus Griswold's article in the New York Tribune in October 1849,the year of his death, signed "Ludwig". Most people agree that Poe wrote this poem about his departed wife who died two years earlier. Of course the poem may be about an earlier love, or perhaps it is purely fictional, but addressing Annabel Lee as his "life and (his) bride" (line 38) and writing it two years after his beloved young wife's death, it is seems logical that it is indeed written about her.

On the following pages, I would...