18 pages 36 minutes read

Edgar Allan Poe

Annabel Lee

Fiction | Poem | Adult | Published in 1849

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Background

Literary Context

Romanticism—a literary and artistic movement that largely began as a reaction against enlightenment era values like objectivity, logic, and reason—came to dominate much of European and American art and literature in the 19th century. With its openness to personal experience, imaginative speculation, and the belief in the human spirit, it was an ideal form for a writer like Edgar Allan Poe—an artist fascinated by the complexity and richness of the human psyche. To be sure, with its emphasis on emotion, feeling, dreams, fantasy, and the spirit, “Annabel Lee” is very much a romantic era poem.

However, like other Poe poems—“The Bells,” “The Raven,” “The Haunted Palace,” “Spirits of the Dead,” “Lenore,” and “El Dorado”—“Annabel Lee” belongs to the sub-genre of romanticism willing to explore darker, often occult forces in ways that the work of foundational romantic writers like William Wordsworth, John Clare, and even Samuel Taylor Coleridge were not. When considered alongside texts like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, John Keats’s “La Belle Dame Sans Merci,” Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “Ode to the West Wind,”, and later, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, “Annabel Lee” stands as a poem which both prioritizes the limitless capacities of the human heart (not even death can destroy true love) and accepts the possibility that God’s emissaries (in this case, angels) are not necessarily as pure as people would like to believe.

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