31 pages 1 hour read

Edgar Allan Poe

The Oval Portrait

Fiction | Short Story | Adult | Published in 1842

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Essay Topics


Critics see “The Oval Portrait,” at least in part, as a meditation on the potential death of Poe’s wife, Virginia. Where else in Poe’s stories and poems does he describe the death of young women? Which of these works can reasonably be linked to Virginia’s illness? Are there other works where this link cannot be made? What else might account for Poe’s fascination with this topic?


“The Oval Portrait” is an example of Gothic Romanticism. What are the characteristics of this genre, and how are they manifested in his work and the works of other popular authors of his time? In what ways is “The Oval Portrait” typical of these works, and in what ways is it atypical?


One of the notable features of this story is its lyrical language. Where are the story’s most lyrical passages? Why might this musical, poetic language be concentrated in these particular parts of the story? What is the intended effect and overall function of this language?