Style and Technique
Ligeia is a woman whom Poe’s readers have often encountered; she is Lenore, whose spirit hovers behind “the silken, sad, uncertain rustling” of the purple curtains in “The Raven”; she is Ulalume, whose spirit calls the narrator to her tomb to live in love-death; she is Annabel Lee in her “sepulchre . . . by the sea”; she is Annie, who has conquered “the fever called ’living.’” She is, just as likely, Poe’s own mother, whose slow death from tuberculosis remained always in the poet’s memory, or Virginia Clemm, Poe’s child bride who died at the age of twenty-three.
Poe’s special gift, which “Ligeia” well illustrates, is his ability to combine these intensely personal motifs with gaudy, arcane, and intentionally cryptic imagery, which he does not require his readers to unravel. To do so, however, is to appreciate the care with which Poe fashioned his works and to see that he did not strive merely for the sensational and the strange.