What would be some common symbols you would find in Edgar Allan Poe's stories.

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price7781 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Fans and literary critics of Edgar Allan Poe's stories can usually expect to find some of the same elements in every one of his stories.  These are often called motifs, and are symbolic as well.  Here are some examples:

  • eyes--the "windows to our soul"; they see everything
  • hearts--symbols of love and death like the heart beating in the wall of "The Tell Tale Heart".
  • Unnamed Narrator--usually signifies that the narrator represents us all or "everyman".
  • premature burial and suffocation--a life in death theme
  • Vortexes--the swirling and spinning sometimes symbolizes insanity
  • Dreams--Are they real or not?
  • Clocks and the passage of time--life vs. death
  • Duality in the characters--Sometimes we see two very distinct sides in a character; the good side and bad side.
  • Animals--cats, ravens, etc.--Often represent a human quality or a part of a character's traits.

All of these can be used as symbols by Poe in his works.  Think about what he is trying to say by using these recurring motifs, and you will unveil the meaning and purpose of the story.