29 pages 58 minutes read

Edgar Allan Poe


Fiction | Short Story | Adult | Published in 1838

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Death as Omnipresent

In Edgar Allan Poe’s “Ligeia,” the theme of mortality and death’s relentless hold on human existence pervades the narrative. From the very beginning, death is established as a constant and becomes its own character. The unnamed narrator’s reflections are imbued with contemplations on death’s mysterious nature and its enduring impact. The narrative commences with the narrator’s musings on the uncertainties and enigmas of death, setting the stage for an exploration of the quest to transcend mortality.

At the heart of “Ligeia” lies the central theme of the unyielding pursuit of transcendence and power over death. The story begins with a quote by Joseph Galnvill, an English philosopher, which suggests that death comes by overpowering the human will to live: “Man doth not yield him to the angels, nor unto death utterly, save only through the weakness of his feeble will” (13). Essentially, this quotation not only indicates that death’s omnipresence will frame the story, but also indicates a war between death and human will. Death is depicted as a constant opponent before the reader is even introduced to the characters.

As Ligeia becomes ill and she wrestles with her coming death, her struggles elevate the power and presence of death.