April 25

An Analysis of Annabel Lee by Edgar Allan Poe

Portrait of Edgar Allan Poe

I discussed the poem Annabel Lee by Edgar Allan Poe with my seventh grade classes, and we had lively discussions about it. The conventional–and typical–interpretation of this poem is that it is a love poem inspired by Poe’s dead wife. My interpretation is different, however. I’ve tried to find another interpretation like mine, and failing, have decided to explain what I think.

Firstly, I want to point out that I am not going to write this as a research paper. I will have no sources other than the poem itself and my own thoughts. Additionally, I begin with the knowledge that Poe composed the poem after his wife’s death. Any specifics about his or her age, cause of death, etcetera, will not come into this explanation because I do not believe them relevant.

One of the most challenging features of Annabel Lee is something that I’ve intuited but never felt the need to articulate, namely:

A fiction writer is understood to take up the role of a narrator, which may differ from his or her own perspective. A poet, on the other hand, is presumed to simply be revealing his or her own biographical feelings in the poem. In short, a poem like Annabel Lee is doubly challenging because it contains both a fictional narrative and a fictional narrator.

Since Annabel Lee is in the public domain, I can begin with the text of the poem itself. Note that Poe actually indents the even lines of his poem, but WordPress enjoys stripping any spaces from the code, and I’m not willing to try to spend hours trying to figure out how to force it to add three extra spaces to every other line of this poem.

Annabel Lee
By Edgar Allan Poe
It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of Annabel Lee;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me.

I was a child and she was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea,
But we loved with a love that was more than love—
I and my Annabel Lee—
With a love that the wingèd seraphs of Heaven
Coveted her and me.

And this was the reason that, long ago,
In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
My beautiful Annabel Lee;
So that her highborn kinsmen came
And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulchre
In this kingdom by the sea.

The angels, not half so happy in Heaven,
Went envying her and me—
Yes!—that was the reason (as all men know,
In this kingdom by the sea)
That the wind came out of the cloud by night,
Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.

But our love it was stronger by far than the love
Of those who were older than we—
Of many far wiser than we—
And neither the angels in Heaven above
Nor the demons down under the sea
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;

For the moon never beams, without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise, but I feel the bright eyes
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling—my darling—my life and my bride,
In her sepulchre there by the sea—
In her tomb by the sounding sea.

I want to take an alternate viewpoint of this poem and examine it from the premise that Poe was using an unreliable narrator. From this point on, when I refer to the poet, I will be referring to the fictional character who is recounting the events of the poem, not Edgar Allan Poe. I will refer to Poe by name when I mean Poe the craftsman who created this poem.

If the poet is unreliable, deciphering which pieces of the poem are factual, and which pieces are interpretations based on the poet’s flawed perspective is a balancing act. The unreliable narrator has a distorted perception of reality, and through that distortion, the reader must interpret what is real and what the poet believes.

The poem Annabel Lee gradually reveals stanza by stanza that the poet is not sane. Within each stanza the poet explains more of his distorted reality, allowing the reader to decipher that the madness was present all along. At the poem’s conclusion, the reader can look back over the poem to see that all of the unreliable hints left by the mad poet.

Stanza One

It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,

The poet begins the poem with “It was many and many a year ago,” which is a close approximation of “Once upon a time,” or even, “A Long Time Ago in a Galaxy Far, Far Away…” This prepares the reader for Never Never Land, a comparable fairy tale landscape, or the green, green grass of the past.

That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of Annabel Lee;

He describes Annabel Lee as a “maiden,” which is, by definition, a young girl, especially unmarried, or a virgin. That he does call her a maiden indicates that their relationship had not progressed to marriage, or he would likely have introduced her as his “wife.”

And this maiden she lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me.

The poet also explains that the maiden, “lived with no other thought than to love and be loved by me.” Since it is the poet who makes this declaration (and not the maiden; we don’t discover until Stanza Three why the maiden can’t speak for herself), there are two conclusions we can draw from his statement:

  • The maiden really did live “with no other thought that to love and be loved by” the poet;
  • The maiden did not have these thoughts, but the poet believed that she did.

Stanza One is the beginning of the poem, and the reader has not had enough exposure to the poet to evaluate his reliability. Readers who assume that the poet is recounting his own true feelings or experiences in the poem will not doubt that the poet is honestly portraying the state of affairs. In contrast, readers who begin to question the reliability of the poet after reading the remainder of the poem must question the accuracy of his assertions.

Stanza Two

I was a child and she was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea,
But we loved with a love that was more than love—
I and my Annabel Lee—
With a love that the wingèd seraphs of Heaven
Coveted her and me.

The couplets introduce these concepts:

  1. The poet and Annabel Lee were children in this once upon a time place;
  2. the poet and Annabel Lee “loved with a love that was more than love”;
  3. this love was so amazingly great that the angels in heaven were jealous of the lovers.

Most people read that the poet and Annabel Lee “loved with a love that was more than love” and assume simply that this line is hyperbole, or an exaggeration of the love the two shared. They do not even question the poet’s assertion, seemingly taking it for granted that a thing (or concept) can be greater than the thing (or concept) itself. But something by definition cannot be greater than itself. The formula 1 > 1 results in a logical error.

Add to this the very abstract and ultimately unknowable statement uttered in lines 11-12, when the poet declares that the angels of heaven are jealous of the love shared between Annabel Lee and the narrator. Such an assertion can be interpreted as either fact or opinion, as in:

  • The poet has knowledge of the heavens that gives him access to the motivations of divine beings.
  • The poet’s opinion is that the angels of heaven were jealous of the love shared by the lovers.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and point out that my experience in life has left me slightly ignorant of the sublime. Indeed, most people I know (and even the most religious among them) are equally ignorant of the sublime. Therefore, the first point can be discounted.
This leaves us with the interpretation that the poet was expressing an opinion when he declared that the angels were jealous. Since people vary in the way they deal with grief, it is not unlikely to assume that the poet has decided to pin the blame for his love’s loss on the divine instruments, God’s angels. What has driven the poet to angels is unclear, especially since he may as well go all the way to the big guy. After all, God is the one who directs the angels much like a toddler with his toy cars. Indeed, by focusing his attention on the angels, he’s giving God a pass, and this purposeful omission appears to be the poet’s way to blame God without blaming God.

Stanza Three

Within this stanza the poet adds two pieces of information to his tale. First, he reinforces the angels’ culpability by saying, “This is the reason” though he doesn’t yet acknowledge the angels as divine hitmen:

And this was the reason that, long ago,
In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
My beautiful Annabel Lee;

Second, the “highborn kinsmen” of Annabel Lee take her away and shut her up in a sepulchre by the sea:

So that her highborn kinsmen came
And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulchre
In this kingdom by the sea.

Probably the most telling element of this stanza is that the poet reveals through his explanation that he is not in any way responsible for Annabel Lee’s body. Her kinsmen are. This supports his earlier statement of Annabel Lee as a maiden. She is a minor, then, a dependent whose elders take care of her after her death. Keep in mind that his reliability is questionable, so the behavior of others in this case supports the statement that she was a maiden, and we can accept it now more readily.

Stanza Four

The angels, not half so happy in Heaven,
Went envying her and me—
Yes!—that was the reason (as all men know,
In this kingdom by the sea)
That the wind came out of the cloud by night,
Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.

The poet’s accusation that the angels are divine hitman incapable of accepting such pure love on earth is a restatement of his assertion from Stanza Three; however, in Stanza four he goes further by attempting to legitimize this accusation when he explains that since everyone knows it, it must be so. I’ve already explained my doubts about the poet’s access to sublime knowledge; I’m equally suspicious about his access to the knowledge of his fellow men, which means his “as all men know” argument is equally faulty. I interpret this as self-deception: he has convinced himself that angels killed Annabel Lee and tells himself that “all men know” this to be the case. We don’t have “all men” to substantiate the poet’s declaration; instead, we have the poet who is increasingly unreliable.

The cause of Annabel Lee’s death, according to the poet, is that “the wind came out of the cloud by night, / Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.” What makes this line interesting is that it could be the most truthful line in the entire poem. Annabel Lee could have died from exposure to cold air; she could have developed pneumonia; there are probably many possible methods of dying from exposure. What is telling about the poet is that he then takes this cold air killer and connects it with the divine, identifying it as the will of angels who seek to end Annabel’s life.

Stanza Five

But our love it was stronger by far than the love
Of those who were older than we—
Of many far wiser than we—
And neither the angels in Heaven above
Nor the demons down under the sea
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;

The poet reveals his strong love, far stronger than the love experienced by others, which is why it can’t be split by either angels or demons.

It is a misapprehension of either innocence or madness to assume that what you yourself experience differs from every other person who has ever existed. It’s the perennial teenage argument, “You just don’t understand,” when the reality is that it is the teenager who just doesn’t understand, who speaks from ignorance and assumes everyone else is not equally ignorant, but more ignorant.

One part of aging is to get past the egocentric assumption that the rest of the world cannot connect to your experiences. The poet has never passed to true maturity, since the loss of Annabel Lee has left him emotionally crippled at the same level of emotional maturity as he was when he lost her. After all, the poet introduces the poem with the line, “It was many and many a year ago.” Meanwhile, he remains (all these years later) as certain as ever that no one can appreciate his lost love, that no one can understand, because no one has ever experienced such a loss.

Stanza Six

The final stanza of Annabel Lee is a knock-out. But Poe doesn’t just put it in one solid jab; he throws a rapid right-left combo before the main thrust. Observe:

For the moon never beams, without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;

We accept this as believable. Certainly a lost love will visit her lover’s dreams as he mourns her death.

And the stars never rise, but I feel the bright eyes
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;

The creep factor should have set in with the words, “I feel the bright eyes.” I recognize only two possible interpretations for this line:

  • The poet is reaching out with his own fingertips to “feel the bright eyes / Of the beautiful Annabel Lee”; or
  • The poet can “feel” the admittedly dead Annabel Lee looking at him. This is the more likely of the two, since it indicates that the poet feels a connection to the dead Annabel Lee as she observes him despite the gulf between the two.

Here’s the final punch:

And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling—my darling—my life and my bride,
In her sepulchre there by the sea—
In her tomb by the sounding sea.

The poet reveals that he spends his nights within his dead love’s tomb at the side of her body. Poe waits, has the poet hold off on this admission until the conclusion of the poem because he wants his reader to look back over the rest of the poem and see it anew, see it in the light of a narrator willing to lay inside a sepulchre beside a dead body near the ocean. All previous stanzas are skewed after the poet admits he sleeps beside Annabel Lee even after her death.

In Conclusion

I believe Poe was really trying to create a disturbing poem that reveals gradually that the poet was unreliable and obsessed with a woman who may not have returned his love. The basic unreliability of the poet revealed in hints throughout the poem means that even as the poet claims Annabel Lee is his “bride,” a reader may not be able to believe that she was anything more than an obsession. We’ve all heard stories of Hollywood starlets beset by obsessive stalkers who need restraining orders; these maniacal lovers fill notebooks with fantasies, and live with the belief that the two are meant to be together for all time. I think Poe wanted to capture this monomania when he wrote Annabel Lee, portraying a creepy stalker willing to sneak into his dead love’s crypt because of his certainty that she wants to be with him even in death.

Image: http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2004672796/


Copyright © 2014 by Andrew Winkel.

Posted April 25, 2012 by Andy in category Education, Everything's Miscellaneous

32 thoughts on “An Analysis of Annabel Lee by Edgar Allan Poe

  1. Sumer

    I’ve read a couple of Edgar Allan Poe’s short stories like “The Pit and The Pendulum”, “The Raven”, and “The Tell-Tale Heart”. Recently I got hooked on this band called Alesana. The lyrics to the songs of their new album, The Emptiness, are all based on Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “Annabel Lee”. I decided to do some research on the poem and my first thoughts were that it was a love story. But the lyrics to the songs made me look at the poem a little harder to see the story behind it all. I kept looking and found this article. It helped me see the band’s thoughts of what the poem is really about. It has just really amazed me of the different stories I’ve found behind this poem but this one is my favorite. Thanks :)

    Reply
    1. Andy (Post author)

      Thanks for the great feedback! I will check out the lyrics from The Emptiness and see how Alesana connected to the poem. I love all the literary connections that you can find in music, like Metallica’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls” as a reference to Hemingway, who was in turn tying his book back to John Donne’s poetry. It’s a fascinating synergy between poetry and music.

      Reply
      1. Sumer

        I’m sorry if I’m annoying you, this is just one of those things that I love talking about and can’t help but comment on. I like music that has a greater meaning behind it, just like a story with a moral or a poem. I like having to really think about every little detail in the words writers use. I especially like looking into the music I listen to. It’s kind of a hobby or slight obsession. ^.^
        Also, great reference to Metallica! I did not know that. :)

        Reply
    1. Andy (Post author)

      Great comment! Thanks for contributing.
      It does make sense that Poe would have used his own feelings of loss to inform the narrative voice he chose to employ for Annabel Lee, creating for a richer reading experience than he could have without that kernel of pain and longing.

      Reply
  2. Venny

    I don’t fully agree with the stalker thing, mainly because of the Poe’s life. His mother and step-mother died of tubreculosis while he was very young, and then later, his young wife (and cousin) died from it too. He was devastated by all three losses. This is why I think that this poem inspired more by his wife’s death and their apparently happy marriage. It was nice to read another POV though!

    Reply
    1. Andy (Post author)

      Most (if not all) of the middle school language art teachers in the school where I teach agree with you. When I first explained my interpretation of the poem they just shook their heads. Of course, they have that response to many of my insights (though they would likely not use the word “insights”).
      Thanks for taking the time to comment; thanks also for politely disagreeing and telling me so.

      Reply
    2. Anna

      I don’t fully agree with the stalker thing either, but I do think that the narrator is a little crazy. My take on the poem is that maybe they really were in love, but after Annabel Lee’s death he is “crazed with grief” and can’t quite handle his sorrow.

      Reply
  3. Nikki

    regarding that most of poe’s works are considered auti-biographical one couldn’t help but jump to the conclusion that his wife, Virginia inspired this poem. I did too. On the other hand Elmira Shelton, Poe’s childhood sweetheart; with whom he reunited after his wife’s death, considered herself as Annabel Lee, even though she outlived the author. I think there’s no doubt that his personal experiences had an impact on his works such as alcoholism, the deaths of loved ones, etc. In my opinion thats just the beauty of his works, his genius. thank you for your very interesting interpretation.

    Reply
    1. Andy (Post author)

      What I appreciate about your comment is that you recognized how Poe could draw upon “his personal experiences … such as alcoholism, the deaths of loved ones” to create the poem, and you connected those facets of his life to the craftsman, not just Poe the bereft lover.
      So many people who read Annabel Lee focus only on the “love” part of the poem while totally ignoring how essentially creepy it is.

      Reply
  4. SamanthaBlake

    I think this is a very interesting look at this poem. Very outside of the box. I am not completely sure if I agree with this take on the poem, yet you do have some very weel thought out points that make this point of view very likely.

    Reply
    1. Andy (Post author)

      I’ll take it as a compliment that even if I haven’t totally convinced you I am right, at least my arguments have made you think about the poem in a new way. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

      Reply
  5. Jessica Govan

    It kind of made me sad how you rationalized away the narrator’s great love for Annabel Lee and labeled him as some sort of stalker creep. I think Annabel Lee’s death pushed the narrator over the edge, but I don’t see why we should doubt that she loved him back when she was alive.

    I think that the narrator’s perceived jealousy from heaven itself is Poe’s way of illustrating the narrator’s great love for Annabel Lee. When the narrator says “we loved with a love that was more than love” I think he was saying their love was greater than anything that can be described; there is nothing to compare it to so he can only say that it is something greater than the thing itself (the only word for it).

    Another thing, I never took the narrator literally when he said that he and Annabel Lee were children. If Annabel Lee was actually his bride, (which there is no real reason to doubt) I would imagine they were at least young adults, which is how I think of them. And I disagree with your assertion that it is either innocence or madness that makes a person believe that what they feel is different from what everyone else feels. The truth is, it is different. Yes, we have all experienced love and joy and pain and sorrow. But my experience is not your experience and your experience is different from everyone else’s. We feel things differently because we view the world in a way that no one else does or ever has. As we grow older we are taught to believe that our feelings and thoughts and emotions are no different from those of any other person who ever lived or ever will live. But I digress.

    When Annabel Lee died and her family came to bury her I don’t think that meant that the narrator didn’t have any legal control over her body, as her husband. The way I see it is Annabel Lee’s “highborn kinsman” swooped in while the narrator was grief stricken and in no position to protest and took control over the burial. I’ve always had that impression that the narrator was of modest means while Annabel Lee was from a wealthy family that probably did not approve of their marriage.

    First and foremost, I think this poem is about a love that transcends death and reason. I know you saw the narrator’s descriptions of love as exaggerations, and his actions that of a psycho, but I interpreted both as proof of the greatness of his love for Annabel Lee. Is his behavior that of a rational human being? Certainly not. Most people grieve and move on. But perhaps his actions prove that what he felt was not normal. Perhaps the narrator really did love Annabel Lee “with a love that was more than love.”

    Reply
    1. Andy (Post author)

      Jessica, I want to thank you for taking the time to comment — thoughtfully and clearly, with specific arguments to illustrate your points. If I had a reader like you to hold my feet to the fire before I hit the “publish” button, I guarantee my post would have been different!
      I may try to respond to your arguments when I can give them the time they deserve; however, if the arguments I presented weren’t persuasive, I doubt seriously trying to crumple them up in new shapes to throw them back at you will make any difference.
      There is one point that I want to address: in my analysis, I wrote “It is a misapprehension of either innocence or madness to assume that what you yourself experience differs from every other person who has ever existed.” You called me on that, writing, “Yes, we have all experienced love and joy and pain and sorrow. But my experience is not your experience and your experience is different from everyone else’s.” I agree with you; my use of the word “differ” appears to derail my point, which was clearer in the next paragraph: “One part of aging is to get past the egocentric assumption that the rest of the world cannot connect to your experiences.”

      Reply
    1. Andy (Post author)

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. Here are my answers:
      Yes, I like Edgar Allan Poe as a poet.*
      Yes, I believe his works are good.*
      Yes, I enjoy them.*

      * I have not read all of Poe’s poems or stories; therefore my responses can only apply to those works of Edgar Allan Poe that I have read.

      Reply
  6. Kat

    An interesting take on Annabel Lee. At first I thought this was a love poem, and it is in some respects. Then I thought it was the love of a parent for a child until “Of my darling—my darling—my life and my bride”. It could be that the author and a woman were in love and their child was Annabel Lee. The line “And this maiden she lived with no other thought
    Than to love and be loved by me” talks about a purity of love, between a parent and child. A cold wind blowing out of the clouds chilling and killing Annabel Lee could explain the loss.
    The fact that you interpreted that the poem was written by someone crazy definitely makes sense. In that case, even in death does he stalk her?
    To blame the gods or some other unseeable force in the death of his love is not unusual. When someone we loves dies, do we not blame god or some other force for our loss?

    Reply
  7. Morgan

    I remember reading/memorizing this poem in middle school, and I did always get a creepy vibe from it.. A sort of beautifully deranged vibe. But I get that from most of Poe’s work! That’s why I love it.

    I always assumed that, in the end, the narrator killed himself. Henceforth he was able to “lie down by the side” of his departed lover and join her in the afterlife. It may be a stretch, but that’s my interpretation.

    Reply
    1. Andy (Post author)

      “A sort of beautifully deranged vibe,” is perfect. And creepy is essential to talk about this poem. When people go on about how this is a love poem, I can’t take them seriously until they use “creepy” or one of its synonyms.
      The interpretation that the narrator killed himself and lies “down by the side” of Annabel Lee would make this not only a creepy love poem, but a ghost story as well. That’s definitely creepy. Whether it’s a ghost story or not, Poe wraps up by giving us a “what not to do” warning about the unhealthy attachment to a physical body.

      Reply
  8. Elisabeth

    I loved this point of view of Poe. Personally, being a fan of Poe’s darker side (I.e. The Tell Tale Heart, The Pit & The Pendulum, etc) I was greatly intrigued by this interpretation, deviating from typical love story interpretation of Annabel Lee.
    Thanks for the great read!

    Reply
  9. Maddie

    I only remembered this poem tonight, at midnight. I don’t know of it’s because I’m sick and can’t sleep, but I’ve been trying to find an analysis like this – this was exactly the way we analysed the poem in my year 12 lit class. I’m so glad to find your take, as my memory was hazy. As I reread the poem (after 4 years), I was feeling totally creeped out, and surprised at how immature the poet was (not Poe – again, exactly how my lit teacher helped us understand). Every other analysis I came across painted such a sad picture of Poe’s longing for his departed wife, but I knew that it wasn’t the way I saw it.
    It is midnight and I’m hardly making sense. But thank you! For reminding me again why I love this insanely creepy poem.

    Reply
    1. Andy (Post author)

      Thank you for such a great comment! I’m grateful to hear that your lit teacher was clear about the author vs. the character who loved Annabel Lee. As you can tell from some of the comments I’ve gotten, many of the readers take the position that Poe was writing about himself, whereas I believe Poe was drawing on his own feelings of depression or loss or despair and exaggerating them, blowing them out of proportion, extrapolating what would happen if such feelings consumed him until his grasp on reality collapsed around him like splinters.

      Reply
  10. liberty

    I think this interpretation to the poem is great , and I completely agree with it because I always got an ominous feeling while reading it. But what Im confused about is that I thought that every poem has a ” central message” that the poet wants to convey to readers , and I dont really see a central message in this interpretation… I mean I doubt it was ” dont stalk people or youll end upp mad..”

    Reply
    1. Andy (Post author)

      Thanks for the comment. For this analysis my intention was to focus on Poe as an unreliable narrator and turn on its head the traditional interpretation of Annabel Lee as a love poem for his dead wife. Identifying the “central idea” wasn’t my goal. However, if I had to pick the one spot where I came closest, it would be in the final paragraph (“In Conclusion”). But I must say, “dont stalk people or youll end upp mad…” is a good lesson to go with, though perhaps it could be “go mad and youll end upp stalking people.”

      Reply
  11. Megan

    Solipsism –> The theory that the self is the only thing that can be known and verified
    We spent a LONG time in class analyzing the poem from this viewpoint. Basically, solipsism is the idea that we think of other people based on their function to us. It really does make sense with “Annabel Lee” when you think about it.

    Reply
  12. Aske

    Dear Andy

    Denmark says hello ;-) I was very pleased when I came across this interpretation. I’ve known this poem for years, and today we discussed it (and other Poe works) in my Master’s American poetry class. Your interpretation goes very much hand in hand with my own views on the text, particularly informed by an (understandable) willingness to consider Poe a very macabre and gothic writer. I find the idea of the speaker (or “poet”) as this mad stalker to be very spot on. Ever since I first read the poem, I have always had this “feeling” that the protagonist actually murdered Annabel Lee himself, and I simply cannot shake it. The only textual arguments I seem to be able to make are the ones you have made, and given these, it is far easier to argue the case of a mad stalker rather than an actual murderer. The poem leaves me with the impression of someone certainly deranged, and one who also tries to shift the blame away from himself by professing again and again the guilt of the angels and the love Annabel had for him. As always, the structure is very neat and ordered, which is very telling about his poetry and even about Poe’s unreliable narrators. The form can be considered from different angles, but one idea is that his tight structure is a fortress behind which the narrator can hide, creating the illusion of order and rationality in a world, or scenario, of disorder and madness.

    Anyway, I just had to share my intuitive thoughts with whoever. Good work, man. Cheers!

    Reply
  13. kendra

    I love the way that you interpreted this poem. It seems more logical than the “lost love” theory. I am currently writing a critical response on this poem, and I think I am going to write it from this point of view. Btw, this is my favorite poem.

    Reply
    1. Andy (Post author)

      Thank you for the comment! If you have the chance to drop me an update, I’m interested in hearing how your paper works out. Good luck!

      Reply
  14. Levi

    Andy, it was refreshing to read your analysis of Annabel Lee as I teach seventh grade as well. I selected this poem as one of the students’ choices for one of their analysis papers we were working on. After reading their papers, I started to really think about this poem. I like how you approached the poem by “dissevering” (;]) Poe and the speaker.

    My analysis, though, is much different from anything I’ve seen. You chose the Speaker as an unreliable narrator, but still injected Poe’s personal experience into it. I went a different rout. Instead, I took what I knew of Poe’s body of work (dark, etc) and read the poem in that light. This is going to sound whacko, but I have a feeling the speaker (once again, not Poe himself) is afflicted by an extreme case of egomania which then leads to Annabel Lee taking her own life. Not only does the speaker claim that angels were jealous of their love, but also that Annabel Lee lived “with no other thought Than to love and be loved by me.” Really? Annabel didn’t have any aspiration in life than to be a vehicle for your love? Also, the speaker is very unsure of Annabel Lee’s death, “Yes!–that was the reason.” Kate Chopin’s Awakening comes to mind when I re-read this poem over and over. Some may see the final stanza as a charming, loving man lying next to his deceased SO. I see a deranged, ignorant man lost in his own egomaniacal ways. Your analysis is based more on evidence, whereas mine is based more on intuition, but I thought you would enjoy reading my far-fetched interpretation.

    Cheers!

    Reply
    1. Andy (Post author)

      I’m pleased to hear from another seventh grade teacher! Thank you for taking the time to comment, and especially for sharing your interpretation. Our observations are really very close to one another because each began as a gut response that the conventional interpretations don’t go far enough, plus each has a self-conscious recognition that our interpretation sounds whacko. I focused on what I could from the narrator since he was the only source of information available while you discerned how the unreliable narrator would have affected Annabel, possibly even as the cause of her death.
      You will appreciate that my students, when I attempt to discuss my interpretation, just consider it “too long.” I’ve had three years of seventh grade language arts students since I first wrote this; the first year’s kids told me I ruined the poem for them (but I wrote this post in response to that class discussion), and the second and third year’s kids have been more interested that I have a website than with my interpretation.
      It was great to hear your interpretation.

      Reply

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