Why did Edgar Allan Poe write Annabel Lee?

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It is difficult to know with certainty why an artist picks a certain theme. In "Annabel Lee," Poe's last poem, he continues, however, to explore a subject that has been important to him: the death of a beautiful young women.

Many critics and biographers have settled on Virginia, his young wife, as the subject of this poem. She had died of tuberculosis two years before, so like Annabel Lee, she died young. Like Annabel Lee, she was beautiful. The speaker in the poem falls in love with Annabel as a child, just as Poe did Virginia, a girl he married when she was only 13. Annabel was a "maiden" when she died, and some biographers believe Poe and Virginia never consummated their marriage.

While Virginia is the most likely candidate as a model for Lee, and while it is likely that Poe was grieving his young wife's death, it is important to keep in mind that a poem has a life of its own. There is not a one-to-one correspondence between Annabel and Virginia: a great artist's imagination will transform a subject.

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On a broader scope, the poem also deals with social injustice and the denial of basic rights to certain underprivileged people. The abolition of slavery in the South was still a few years away, so some critics consider this a statement against racism as well as a personal statement of loss. Check out the following references, which give more information concerning this aspect.

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Many scholars and readers have speculated that Edgar Allan Poe wrote Annabel Lee about his wife Virginia. She had passed on two years before the poem was written in 1849. This may explain why Poe gave copies to various people and a magazine at the time, almost as a way to make sure that the poem would be published. Then again, Poe may have just written Annabel Lee as a continuation of his commonly used theme of death to a beautiful woman. Some people speculate that this theme is mirrored by the death of Poe's mother, step mother and his young wife Virginia.

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