Annabel Lee Summary

Edgar Allan Poe

Annabel Lee

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Annabel Lee Summary

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“Annabel Lee” is a poem written by Edgar Allan Poe and published shortly after his death in 1849. It was the last complete poem he composed, and like many of his poems it explores death, love, and the obsessive link between the two.

In the poem, the narrator describes his love for a young girl named Annabel Lee. Their love began many years ago, when they were children and lived by the sea. Even though they were young, their love was pure and true, not like the love of children. It burned so brightly that the angels of heaven noticed and were jealous.

According to the narrator, the jealousy of the angels caused Annabel’s death. A wind came down from the clouds, causing Annabel to fall ill and eventually die. After her death, her relatives took her away to her tomb.

The narrator doesn’t believe that death is the end of their love. He insists that their love is so real that he sees Annabel everywhere, in places like his dreams and in the stars. Neither the angels nor the demons can separate them. He loves her so much that he still visits her tomb every night, lying down with her as their souls intertwine.

“Annabel Lee” follows a common fascination of Poe’s: the death of a young, beautiful woman. Poe once called that the most poetic topic in the world, and he explores it in other poems as well. Annabel falls in love and falls ill very young, and the poem centers on what ideal love looks like.

For Poe’s narrator, ideal love continues even after the death of one of the partners. The narrator in the poem worships Annabel, and his assertion that the angels killed her highlights his childish nature. He is unable to process his sense of grief, and looks for supernatural explanation. Moreover, he believes that they will be reunited after death.

Another theme of the poem is the conflict between love and those who stand against it. The love of the narrator and Annabel is met with hostility not only from family, but from supernatural forces as well. Even if they could have convinced their parents that their love was real, the jealousy of the angels would still have destroyed it.

However, ideal love cannot be foiled, even by something as permanent as death. The narrator believes they will be reunited, and in anticipation of that moment, he finds the brightness of Annabel’s eyes in the stars, and spends every night with her in her tomb.

Although the poem is not very long, Poe manages to weave an intricate tale of the two lovers and their family dynamics. The narrator suggests that Annabel’s family did not think much of him. Like the heavens, the family cannot understand how pure and true the love of the young pair is.

The poem is broken up into 6 stanzas made of long and short lines. Poe tends to alternate between them, but not always, and while the long lines don’t always rhyme, the short line do. Poe was extremely interested in the way poems fit together, and makes use of two notable poetic devices: the iamb and the anapest.

With an anapest, there are two unstressed syllables together, whereas an iamb alternates evenly between stressed and unstressed syllables. Poe was careful about the way he used these two structures together, and it gives the poem its particular sound.

This rhythm is part of the reason that the poem sticks with the reader. The theme of love that cannot be conquered gives the poem a haunting quality. This is no ordinary love poem. It doesn’t just praise Annabel and stick with the lighter parts of love. Instead it explores the darkness, bordering on obsession, of a person dealing with the loss of his ideal love.

The obsession has changed the narrator. This ideal love is the reason that he is who he is, but in it is also responsible for his inability to move on with his life. He was once a kid in love with a girl, but now he is sleeping every night in a tomb, haunted by his lost love.

The poem seems simple, but the structure and the basic story bely a much more complicated idea. Love very quickly can turn into this obsession. It is difficult to know how life would have turned out for the narrator and his beloved Annabel had she lived longer, but her death set off a chain of events that have now trapped the narrator in a cycle of obsession.

The question we have now is the nature of ideal love. The narrator uses his own actions in dealing with his grief as a way to prove that his love was perfect, but is it really? It’s possible instead that the poem serves as a critique of the obsession we have with perfection and of our own inability to deal with loss and difficult emotional states.