18 pages 36 minutes read

Edgar Allan Poe

Annabel Lee

Fiction | Poem | Adult | Published in 1849

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Symbols & Motifs

The Sepulchre [sic] (Coffin)

What good would a gothic poem be if it didn’t feature regular references to a coffin? Certainly, in “Annabel Lee,” Poe does not want the reader to find out. The recurrent image of Annabel Lee “shut” (Line 19) away in a coffin—her body presumably rotting all while the sea waves rise and fall with their characteristic indifference to human plight—creates a consistent reminder for the reader that they, too, will one day find themselves in such a place.

In addition, the presence of Annabel Lee’s coffin—static, motionless—when set against the rolling sea, echoes the feeling of emotional and psychological imprisonment and isolation the narrator feels now that he is alone on this earth without his lovely bride beside him. Such an interpretation clearly leads to the realization that there are two “coffins” in the poem: the literal coffin Annabel Lee inhabits, and the figurative coffin the narrator’s grief has constructed. The lines between the two coffins blur when the narrator succumbs to his grief/desire and slides into the coffin next to his deceased lover: Here, they are one again.

The Seaside Kingdom

The narrator’s repeated mentions of “this kingdom by the sea” remain unfailingly ambiguous. In what geographical space is this kingdom to be found? What are its coordinates or the names of its rulers and other inhabitants? Like so much else in “Annabel Lee,” the narrator provides no answers or clarifications.

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