What is the meaning of the poem  "Alone" by Edgar Allan Poe and how does it relate specifically to Poe?

In "Alone," the speaker expresses his sense of loneliness in life, in his interests, and in his joy. This relates specifically to Poe in that it reflects his loneliness and brokenness in his early life and his perception of his own eccentricity.

Expert Answers

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

"Alone" was written when Poe wasn't yet the renowned author he came to be. He wrote this poem when he was only twenty, after a particularly tough year. He had faced quite a bit of literary rejection during this time, and his foster mother also died this year. He had already lost his birth mother and had no contact with his biological father, so he was feeling pretty lonely in the world.

This sense of solitude is reflected in "Alone":

I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone—
And all I loved—I loved alone—

Poe's use of the em dash in these lines and throughout the poem represents a sense of brokenness pervading his early life. With little faith in or support from the adults around him, he is left constantly trying to "awaken / [His] heart to joy" and failing. He cannot do it. He loves "alone," without his biological mother or father.

In the beginning lines, the reader is also made aware of Poe's tendencies toward the eccentric (assuming the speaker is Poe representing his own thoughts, not an imagined persona). He opens with these lines:

From childhood's hour I have not been
As others were—I have not seen
As others saw—

Poe has never been like other people, not even as a young child. He has always been interested in things that do not interest other people and sees the world differently. Considering the subject matter of his work (e.g., a man who murders a neighbor because of his evil eye, a man who narrowly escapes death by a swinging scythe, a raven who taunts a man by incessantly repeating "Nevermore," and a speaker who lies on his love's grave every night), it's really not all that surprising that Poe marches to the beat of his very individual drum.

This is all conveyed with a type of strength. Poe doesn't mourn his inability to "fit in" with the mainstream; after all, his eccentric ideas make him the poet and author we are still fascinated with almost two hundred years later.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The poem “Alone” by Edgar Allan Poe was not published during his lifetime.  It was not until 1875 that the poem was verified as being an authentic Poe poem written in 1830 when Poe was only twenty-one.

The poem is basically a flashback of an adult narrator looking back at his childhood. The tone of the poem is gloomy and dark, reinforced by such words as sorrow, alone, stormy, thunder, and demon.

Poe speaks about his uniqueness.  Unfortunately, he was never able to fit in and found himself melancholy throughout his childhood.  In his relationships, he was often left out.  The purpose of the poem is psychologically sound if it is true that it helps to write out what the person feels is wrong in his life. Whether it helped Poe or not, the reader is better able to understand the mystery of why Poe was miserable in his life and he wrote about the subject of loss and unhappiness.

From childhood's hour I have not been
As others were — I have not seen
As others saw — I could not bring                                                                                                          My passions from a common spring—

Poe writes explains that he was not like the other children in his outlook, his play, his enjoyment; he knew that he was not normal or happy as the others were.  His joys were not the same and did not come from the same place.

He was always alone with his pleasure and loves. The mystery that holds him together came from every experience that he has had. This formed his temperament and personality.  During his childhood and in the beginning of his stormy life, he is a part of both the good and bad experiences.  

In some ways, he was protected from the storms, the thunder and lightning, the precipice of  danger, by the sun that encompassed  him. Poe may be referring to a higher power although later in life it is said that he was an atheist.  As he looks back at his life, he sees the blue sky and heavens above; yet, one of the clouds appears like a demon. 

And the cloud that took the form
(When the rest of Heaven was blue)
Of a demon in my view

Poe in his life had many demons that he suppressed. From this line, the reader may wonder if Poe felt as though the devil was always at his shoulder.  His way of handling his problems was with drugs and alcohol. 

There are those people who because of a lack of security and love as a child never find happiness in their adulthood.  They may be supremely talented, have millions of dollars, but are unable to face each day and the future without a struggle. Poe was one of those strange people.  Despite his magnificent talent and even his attraction to women, he always looked for something that he did not have in his life. 

This poem is especially interesting because it was written at such a young age.  Obviously, Poe was already unhappy, unable to understand why he was so miserable, and longing to find a place or person who could help him find why he was the way he was.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

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