Historical Criticism of Edgar Allan Poe’s Poems
Sample Paper: Historical Criticism of Edgar Allan Poe’s Poems: “Annabel Lee, The Raven, and A Dream Within a Dream.”
Edgar Poe was an American poet and literary critic whose body of works has been admired over many generations. The three poems selected in this analysis depict him not only as an icon of romanticism but also a keen poet whose characters show immense emotional and spiritual strength to overcome adversity and trying moments (Muhammad 4). Edgar’s literary career did not yield a comfortable life, and he was often in financial difficulty, which resonates with the themes of his poems. For instance, “Annabel Lee” is a sorrowful tribute to a loved one after her death, which many critics depict as Poe’s wife. The other poem, “The Raven” depicts a bleak fate of horror images and characters into the night, and the last poem, “A Dream within a Dream” is a 24 line poem that profusely exhibit disturbing emotions of loss and desolation. Based on the themes of romanticism and loss or the death of a loved one, Poe’s persona in the three poems resonates with horrific feelings that result from a melancholic isolation scary nightly comportment.
Edgar Allan Poe wrote most of his poetry because of his own experiences of torment and suffering out of the many tragedies that visited his plight. In the three poems, Poe dwells on the theme of occult and black magic by painting picturesque images of bleak darkness and melancholy, information traceable to the American society of the era (Schöberlein 648). T.S. Eliot’s assessment posed critical acclaim, asserting that Poe’s sonorous compositions place more emphasis on prosodic effect to the point of violating semantic effects in the wordings of the poems “Annabel Lee” and “The Raven.”
Poe uses the motif of a rustic life, which embodied the social tropes when Americans generally lived rural life with its stark emotions about the humble existence in which the essential passions of the heart committed to love would blossom. Its aftermath is the sordid melancholy and desolation accompanying the loss of a loved one either in the form of their demise or separation. The purity of the natural environment that surrounded Poe at the time of his literary twilight is directly given vent in the three poems. For instance, in “a Dream within a Dream,” the persona recounts, “…all that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream.” Disillusionment can be hard to deal with in the stark natural environments with little external experiences in life (Puadah 12). Edgar Allan Poe lived a very precarious existence towards the end of his life because he never earned much money from his writing to have a decent life of accomplishment. So his relationships were always struggling despite his fame.
From a semantic perspective, Poe’s construction of the poems enabled him to manifest passions and emotions that transcended the late 19th-century life in the U.S. While Poe convinces the reader of his devoted love for the women in the poems, his autobiography paints a rather bleak reality because he was most a ruminating loner divorced from most of the cultural realities of the devoted partner. In “Annabel Lee,” Poe uses the metaphors of heaven and demons to conjure bizarre feelings associated with love and its attendant emotions when external matters force lovers apart. The beloved beautiful Annabel Lee is mentioned repeatedly, and very rosy descriptions are attributed to her devoted love for the persona. Considerably simplistic and elementary feelings of love are used by the persona to describe the deep emotional connection they share in the relationship. Despite the rosy expressions of love, it is a paradox because seldom do men manage to melt their lovers’ hearts in words alone.
Deeply emotional expressions of love in words often bewilder men because it is the tradition that women fall for material endowments rather than the expression of romantic stories. In “The Raven,” Allan Poe exemplifies the disillusioning effect of her own writing when after the loss, all he has for solace and comfort are ghostly imaginations of the lover coming in the image of a raven in the night. In retrospect, romanticism creates the notion of one losing a sense of realism in the very sentiments they ruminate about, mainly when one is living lonesome and in the reveries of past emotional connections (Syafitri & Marlinton 48). The three poems embody a very devout connection to one’s country and land, which recurs in how the persona describes their community. Connectedness to country and land critically situates the poems in the 19th century American literature when the history of migration into the newfound land inspired much grotesque depiction of the new settlements in the Americas.
As a postmodernist, Allan Poe’s writing style is poignant with modernist sentimentality and chivalry. There is an evasion of the structuralism and its rigid form of embodiment by exhibiting the passions of heaven and ghostly characters interacting with people at a very passionate level (Bakhsh 24). He uses the narrative form of expression to signify for varied interpretations of diverse symbolism in all three poems. The female characters’ gendered image in the poems is cherished for their beauty and not much more in the sordid depictions of their prestige and nature. The narrative form helps situate the works of literature squarely in the milieu of the American 19th century.
Poe had a sharp intellectual taste as a literary critic and writer, which helped produce extremely subtle rhetoric in the three poems under review. The title “The Raven” also has a character depicted as a scholar who was in love but got disillusioned by the loved one’s demise. The piece’s complex rhyme is parodied as one of the best because it captures sublime poetic inspiration, which Poe carefully developed throughout his literary career. The poignant conflict in the poems is that of a willingness to forget and, at the same time, to remember the undying devotion the two lovers had before the parting. The persona vividly remembers how deeply devoted they are to the lover but also the trading experience of separation when the lover dies or is taken away by others (Schöberlein 653). The persona only counts losses in all their devoted relationships. In “A Dream within a Dream,” the persona recounts how deeply excoriating the experience was. He says, “…I weep, Oh God! Can I not grasp them with a tighter clasp?” It is evident that the relationships did not benefit the persona and instead led only to his pain and unbearable anguish.
In conclusion, the works of Edgar Allan Poe capture notions very characteristic of the 19th century American literature. Allan Poe is acknowledged for introducing romanticism to American literary style, and the three poems under review capture the very essence of poststructuralist discourses in American literature. From an autobiographical analysis, the works of Allan Poe show his own personal experiences through struggling relationships that often left the author emotionally distraught. Including picturesque imagery of ghostly characters helps the author come to terms with the elusive reality involved in courtship and marriage through all ages. Allan Poe used writing as a form of salvation from a cruel and elusive fate that attended his life, particularly towards his career and eventual tragic demise.
Bakhsh, Ladan Farah. “A Deconstructive Reading of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven”.” Galore International Journal of Applied Sciences and Humanities 4.2 (2020): 19-28.
Muhammad, Fadhil Nur. Passion of men through a natural object in Edgar Allan Poe’s selected poems. Diss. UIN Sunan Gunung Djati Bandung, 2019.
Puadah, Ade. An Analysis of Metaphor in Edgar Allan Poe’s Poems. Diss. IAIN Syekh Nurjati Cirebon, 2017.
Schöberlein, Stefan. “Poe or not Poe? A stylometric analysis of Edgar Allan Poe’s disputed writings.” Digital Scholarship in the Humanities 32.3 (2017): 643-659.
Syafitri, Dewi, and Melisa Marlinton. “An analysis of the figurative language used in Edgar Allan Poe’s poems.” Linguistic, English Education, and Art (LEEA) Journal 2.1 (2018): 43-59.
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