29 pages 58 minutes read

Edgar Allan Poe


Fiction | Short Story | Adult | Published in 1838

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Character Analysis

The Narrator

The narrator in Edgar Allan Poe’s “Ligeia” speaks in first-person and serves as the central observer and storyteller, providing readers with intimate access to his thoughts, emotions, and perceptions. His narrative perspective allows readers to delve deep into the psychological aspects of obsession and “madness,” enhancing the story’s emotional impact. At the outset, he is a grieving widower captivated by his first wife’s, Ligeia’s, charm and intellect. However, his obsession with her grows to alarming proportions, and his decision to marry his second wife, Rowena, marks the beginning of his descent into “madness.” As the story progresses, his mental stability crumbles further, leading to irrational actions and hallucinations. His inability to distinguish between reality and illusion, his fervent belief in Ligeia’s continued presence, and his obsession-driven actions all contribute to reader recognition of his lack of narrative reliability.

Poe achieves the characterization of the narrator primarily through elaborate language in his descriptions. The amount of space given to the narrator’s account of Ligeia’s intellect and beauty is comparable to the amount of space devoted to Rowena’s death. Through the narrator’s monologues on the power of the human will, Poe characterizes him as a figure driven by hubris as he possesses an unwavering belief that he can resurrect the dead through the sheer force of his will.