The Human Disfigurement of Love in the Poem Annabel Lee by Edgar Allan Poe

Topics: Annabel Lee

Explication of “Annabel Lee”

Love’s Distortion from Pure to Grotesque

In what is thought to be Edgar Allan Poe’s final poem, “Annabel Lee”, Poe accurately expresses a particularly tragic trait of human nature. While “Annabel Lee” is about love, throughout the poem the sacred value of this love becomes progressively degraded. Poe reveals through this poem that humans can take something as pure and beautiful as love, and distort and twist it beyond recognition into something grotesque. In Poe’s tragic and grotesque narrative poem,” Annabel Lee”, the poet addresses the human disfigurement by love using metaphor, rhyming, and capitalization.

The start of Annabel Lee traces the start of the narrator’s journey and how he begins to corrupt his love. In the beginning, all is well. The poem first opens with the back story of the two characters, Annabel Lee, the protagonist, and the apparent narrator. The reader learns that these two love each other, even to the point where this is their life’s focus.

The last two lines of the first stanza read as follows: “And this maiden she lived with no other thought Than to love and be loved by me.”‘(lines 5-6)

Here the poet is conveying the intensity of the love between the two main characters in this narrative-style poem. While their outlook seems bright, this is not to remain the case. While this poem is narrative in style, the rhyming of the lines almost turns this poem into a tragic song. The poem’s setting makes it Gothic, and the kingdom by the sea is a mysterious and unknown location.

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The setting is not described specifically, and Poe creates a gothic and romantic atmosphere when setting the scene of an unknown kingdom. Even the very name “Annabel Lee” has a musical rhythm and cadence to it which reflects the overall musicality of the poem. This poem repeatedly uses the phrases “in this kingdom by the sea” and “of the beautiful Annabel Lee,” as well as the repetition of other words. Additionally, the rhyme scheme constantly emphasizes the words “me,” “Lee,” and “sea,” driving home the interconnected nature of these concepts within the poem while at the same time creating a poem that reads like a mournful song about loss.

At the start of the second stanza, the audience learns a bit more about Annabel Lee, the love existing between the narrator and her, as well as the potential for the disfigurement of this love. The first line of this stanza says, “I was a child and she was a child” (line 7). From the context, it seems that Poe is not necessarily meaning for this to be taken literally but rather uses imagery referring to the two of them as children to highlight their innocence. More of their manner of love is also revealed in this stanza. Poe says, “We loved with a love that was more than love — I and my ANNABEL LEE” (lines 9-10). It is evident from this quote that the protagonist reveres his love and regards it in such high esteem beyond all other loves. However, just after he declares this, he mentions a potential threat to the existence of this ardent love. He says that this intense love is “a love that the winged seraphs of heaven coveted her and me”. While at first glance this may simply appear as a poetic way to declare the perfect nature of their love, the fact that the angels covet them will eventually result in the downfall of Annabel Lee. By ending the second stanza with the mention of the covetous angels, the poet is making use of foreshadowing, which will later affect the story. He describes the death of Annabel Lee and explains what he thinks the angels’ role is in this tragedy.

In the third stanza, the story continues and takes a dramatically tragic turn which will eventually define the grotesque nature of the narrator’s constant love. An apparent unknown source sends a chilling wind to sicken Annabel Lee. The result is lamentable, and the chill caught from this terrible wind eventually leads to Annabel Lee’s death. The protagonist reports that the kinsmen of Annabel Lee bury her body after she has passed away. However, this character, probably because he is traumatized, puts this burial in a different perspective. Even though his dear Annabel Lee is already dead, he claims he is bereft of her and acts as if she was unjustly taken from him. Poe writes, “her highborn kinsmen came And bore her away from me, to shut her up in a sepulcher in this kingdom by the sea” (lines 11-14). Because he interprets the loss of Annabel Lee at the hands of her family as a negative, his love is starting to become degraded. It seems that the narrator no longer necessarily wants what may be best for his love, but rather might advocate for any course of action that would ensure the two of them remain together. The poet uses harsh language such as “bore her away” or “shut her up” to communicate what he feels to be injustice in this situation.

In the fourth stanza, Poe explains how Annabel Lee died, who sent the wind to chill and kill her, and expresses how his undying love is spawning anger against others because of the recent events. In his near insanity, the narrator uses a parenthetical phrase to express his frustration. He even assumes that all in this mysterious kingdom must know the cause behind his Annabel’s de He says: “Yes!—that was the reason (as all men know, in this kingdom by the sea) That the wind came out of the cloud by night, chilling And killing my ANNABEL LEE” (lines 23-26). The protagonist claims the aforementioned angels who were covetous of their love grew so envious that they sent the deathly wind to take his Annabel Lee away from him. Whether he is being metaphorical with the imagery of angels, or he is insane and believes the angels truly have taken his loved one in death, it is clear that the sincere love they had is being twisted, as he feels the necessity to pin blame on someone or something for this unfortunate accident.?

This human distortion of love is explored even more in the fifth stanza of “Annabel Lee”. The first lines elucidate what the protagonist truly feels about the love he had, or in his mind, still has. Poe writes:

But our love was stronger by far than the love

Of those who were older than we —

Of many far wiser than we —

And neither the angels in heaven above,

Nor the demons down under the sea,

Can ever dissever my soul from the soul

Of the beautiful ANNABEL LEE. (lines 21-27)

In this stanza, Poe uses contrast to examine what the narrator belibelievesbe true about his form of love. The protagonist believes his love even exceeds that of the older and wiser and declares his love is “stronger by far” (line 27). He also juxtaposes angels and demons when he claims that neither heavenly nor hellish creatures divide his soul from the soul of his love.

Because of the use of contrast in this stanza, the reader gains a greater understanding of the unhealthy obsession this love has become, even transcending the grave, and how the original purity of love is being distorted.

The final stanza directly examines a very corrupted and distorted version of love. The protagonist realizes that Annabel Lee has died, and diedyedied cannot push her from his mind. He does even the unthinkable. As night falls he cannot bear the thought of sleeping apart from his love, so he goes to her tomb and sleeps beside her corpse. Poe creepily concludes his poem:

And so, all the night tide, I lie down by the side

Of my darling-my darling-my life and my bride,

In her sepulcher there by the sea

In her tomb by the sounding sea. (lines 32-35)

This unsettling ending certainly reflects the gothic nature of Edgar Allan Poe’s poetry. His romance has a twisted element because the bride the protagonist is loving and lying beside is a dead one, merely a corpse. In this final stanza th, the e-reader can conclude why ANNABEL LEE has been capitalized throughout the poem, even from the very beginning.

Reading her name in all capital letters evokes mental images of tombstones or grave sites, with these letters etched upon them. Poe thus uses capitalization even from the start of the poem to foreshadow the ultimately tragic fate of the poor Annabel Lee.

In writing “Annabel Lee”, Poe gives his readers a vivid image of how corruptible human nature is, and how the corruptibility of man can lead to his distortion of things once pure.

This poem in particular demonstrates how and why a man chooses to twist love from something beautiful into something grotesque and hideous. At the root of all sin is human pride, and so it is with Poe’s tragic protagonist. The man simply cannot bear to let his love go, or learn to give up his ideologies, always staying by the side of his love, even literally. While reading this poem is unsettling, the love portrayed is twisted and hideous, Poe achieves a distorted depiction of truth, and does an accurate job displaying the sinfulness of man.


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  2. Cutar, Verniel. “Annabel Lee: Symbols of Love and Death in the Poem.” BookstoveisBookstore. 22 July 2008. Web. <>
  3. Poe, Edgar Allan. “Annabel Lee.” The Norton Anthology of American Literature. Seventh ed. New York: W. W. Norton &, 2007. 678-79. Print.
  4. Poe, Edgar Allan. “Text: Edgar Allan Poe, AnnabeGriswold Griswold Manuscript, Late May 1849.” Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore. N.p., 21 Dec. 2009. Web. <>
  5. Viana, Vandar. “Universal Poe(try)? Reacting to Annabel Lee in English, Portuguese and Ukrainian Vander Viana –” Universal Poetry)? Reacting to Annabel Lee in English, Portuguese and Ukrainian | Vander Viana – Web. < ortuguese_and_Ukrainian>.

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The Human Disfigurement of Love in the Poem Annabel Lee by Edgar Allan Poe. (2022, Jun 18). Retrieved from

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