19 pages 38 minutes read

Edgar Allan Poe

The Haunted Palace

Fiction | Poem | Adult | Published in 1839

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Historical Context

There were many social and economic changes occurring in the United States during the time that Poe wrote “The Haunted Palace.” Industrialization led to a more crowded and less healthy lifestyle for many people living in American cities, and this fueled new illnesses like tuberculosis. During this era, there was little in the way of help for people suffering from personal or psychological maladies, and mental illness was not viewed as a health issue. In the 1850s, the science of psychology was in its infancy and mental health issues were viewed as consequences of weak morality or spiritual deficits rather than biologically based issues within the human brain and body.

By writing an allegorical poem about the decay of a gorgeous palace when it is overrun by evil demons who bring sadness, Poe simplifies the complex nature of mental health. He suggests a far more empathetic view of those who emotionally or mentally suffer. Poe suggests tragedy can befall anyone, and the fall of the palace was due to seemingly random misfortune rather than to some moral failing on the part of its king. Poe wants readers to empathize with those who have emotional and psychological conditions, rather than harshly judge them.