29 pages 58 minutes read

Edgar Allan Poe


Fiction | Short Story | Adult | Published in 1838

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Story Analysis

Analysis: “Ligeia”

The success of the terror of “Ligeia” comes from Poe’s narrative ambiguity, established through his unnamed narrator’s first-person and unreliable narration. Readers have no choice but to follow along with the narrator’s interpretation of events and must then decide whether such events really occurred or whether they reflect the narrator’s unstable mind.

“Ligeia” is a story that is profoundly interested in the relationship and boundaries between life and death. Although the narrator establishes that he is reflecting on his past, his description of events are vivid and detailed, which conveys a sense of present moment rather than reflection. So, while the women of the story are presumably dead at the time of the telling, the narrator’s story brings them back to life. The nature of death is challenged as the narrator’s relationship to the women, specifically Ligeia, is very much alive, regardless of their physical status.

Although the boundaries between life and death are explored, especially as Ligeia seems to come back to life and reanimate Rowena’s body, the story ultimately presents Death as Omnipresent. Death permeates the narrative as a pervasive and dominant presence. The story begins with the narrator’s recollections of death and his musings on its enigmatic nature.