What are some examples of diction, syntax, and connotation in "Dream-Land" by Edgar Allan Poe?

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Diction refers to word choice and is related to the tone and mood of a literary work. Syntax is the arrangement of words within a sentence. Connotation relates to the implied and contextual meanings of a word, as contrasted to denotation, or the word’s literal meaning.

Edgar Allan Poe’s “Dream-Land” uses formal diction, combined with a first-person narrator, to convey that the speaker is an educated person. The poet also includes allusions to emphasize the speaker’s education or erudition through their familiarity with classical concepts such as “ultimate Thule,” the farthest limit of knowledge. The diction is also somewhat archaic, using verb forms that had already become uncommon in standard English by the 19th century. Notably, he uses “lieth” instead of “lies” for third-person present tense: “a wild weird clime that lieth….”

The syntax features an excessive number of phrases, separated by em dashes. This makes the text choppy and suggests anxiety, haste, or restlessness on the part of the speaker. This usage and related impression increases through the middle of the poem. The structure dominates the third stanza, in which twelve of the eighteen lines include these dashes, and half of the lines end in a dash. The author combines this choppy syntax with the repeated use of phrases describing the location, employing a prepositional phrase beginning with “by the.” These begin at the stanza’s first line, which begins with “By the lakes,” and continue by using it with “mountains,” “grey woods,” “dismal tarns and pools,” and “each spot.” To emphasize this list of places, the last dash in the stanza inverts the structure, so that “by” directly precedes the dash: “As they pass the wanderer by—”. Here, “they” refers to memories, not places.

Although the speaker does not identify himself specifically as “the traveller,” the connotation in the text is the identification of the two. This link is strongly suggested by the use of first person near the beginning and end: “I have reached these lands” in the first stanza and “I have wandered home” in the last. There is a strong connotation of Hell as the land through which the traveler wanders, suggested by numerous references to “darkened glasses,” “night,” “shadow,” and a “black throne,” along with mentions of “dead” waters, “Earth” compared to “Heaven,” and "ill angels."

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on December 20, 2019
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