How can you tell if the poem "Annabel Lee" has Gothic elements?

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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Although Edgar Allan Poe's memorable poem "Annabel Lee" does not immediately come to mind in a gothic sense, it does contain virtually all of the elements expected of that style. In literature, the term "gothic" usually includes some specific ingredients: a mansion or castle, a women in need, a man with a love interest, a shroud of gloom or mystery, and a barbarous or terrible act. It is often related to something very old (since Gothic also refers to 17th century architecture) and often with supernatural references. "Annabel Lee" certainly contains all of these traits.

The age is evident--"It was many and many a year ago..." Since Annabel lived in a "kingdom," a castle is inferred, though never specifically mentioned. The love interest between Annabel and the narrator is most obvious, and Annabel becomes a woman in need when

A wind blew out of a cloud by night
    Chilling my Annabel Lee;
So that her high-born kinsmen came
    And bore her away from me.

Sick from the night chill, Annabel needed someone to take care of her--rescue her from the grip of Death. When she dies, she is shut up "in a sepulchre," another gothic reference to an old fashioned tomb.

The barbarous act is, of course, the sudden death of one so young and beautiful. The poem consistently exudes a terribly gloomy aura throughout, heightened by Poe's references to the supernatural--"demons," "angels," and "winged seraphs"--and words such as "dissever." The narrator's obsessive desire to stay with her "all the night-tide" further adds to the extreme melancholia of the poem. So, like many of Poe's other works, "Annabel Lee," too, has a distinct gothic feel.


Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are some Gothic elements that Poe incorporates into his poem.  One such element is the notion which is brought out in line 2, and then repeated in the poem.  The idea of the love described as being linked to "a kingdom by the sea" can be seen as representative of the Gothic genre, which based much of its setting in old castles that possess some level of mystery.  The presence of extreme emotion is something that pervades both the Gothic genre and the poem, where the speaker is overcome with the emotion of both the love and the loss experienced.  The Gothic element of a woman in distress can describe Annabel Lee, whom is seen as oppressed and victimized by the forces of death.  This is enhanced with the speaker's description of her being "locked up," contributing to her overcome status.  Finally, the love expressed by the speaker borders on obsessive love and one that seeks to control and dominate over another, feeding into another Gothic mode of emotional expression.