Describe the characters in the poem "Annabel Lee" by Edgar Allan Poe.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of Annabel Lee...

Interestingly, the poem “Annabel Lee” was published after the death of Poe.  Appropriately, it was his last poem. This is a delicious, yet horrifying love poem.

The narration is first person with the narrator remembering a painful memory of a lost love.  The narrator knew the young woman many years ago.  They were both children that lived in a kingdom by a sea and loved each other even as children. When the angels looked down from heaven and saw the love between them, the angels were jealous. Blaming the angels causing the death of Annabel Lee, the speaker feels that they sent a wind that made her sick with a chill which finally causes her death.

After she died, her highborn kinsman comes and buries her in a tomb. The narrator does not appreciate this severance.  Nothing is going to separate the two lovers, not even death.  Not angels, nor devils—no one will keep them apart.  He is haunted by her and sees her everywhere from the stars to his dreams. 

There is little information provided about either the speaker or Annabel Lee.  The speaker is obviously greatly enamored by the young woman.  Apparently, they are about the same age since they were children together.  The reader may wonder if he is not of the same social status as Annabel since he calls her relative a highborn kinsman. This may indicate that he was from a different social class background. It is obvious that the speaker has lost touch with reality and is obsessed by his dead lover.  Now, here is the horrifying part…every night he goes to the tomb and lies down with her which has been going on for years.

Other than the probability of nobility, no real characteristics are given about Annabel either. The speaker although certainly prejudiced states repeatedly that she is beautiful and young.  She may have been frail since it took only a wind to make her chill. 

Describing the inevitability of the two being together, Poe created what is one of the most beautiful rhythmic lines in American verse:

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…

The poem begs to be read aloud as does the poem in general. The poem’s intensity shows a different side to Poe than his other poetry.  One wonders if he was writing a tribute to his late wife Virginia whom he married when she was only 13 and who died soon after of consumption.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial