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The Bells

The Bells

by Edgar Allan Poe

Brazen (Bronze) Bells

Symbol Analysis

These are the first scary bells we run into in the poem.  They are loud fire alarm bells, whose call shatters the calm of the night, filling it with noise and fear and danger.  Again, the kind of metal Poe chooses here is important.  Instead of being precious and delicate like gold and silver, brass is a hard, tough, everyday kind of metal.  We're already a long way from golden harmony.

  • Line 38:  We mostly just want you to check out the alliteration here.  This line repeats the "t" sound over and over again.  "The Bells" is packed with examples of this kind of repetition of words and sounds.  In this case, we think it gives a feeling of nervous tension to the line.  All those hard, stuttery "t" sounds in a row give us a sense of how agitated and chaotic the world is in this moment.
  • Line 40:  This is another moment when the bells almost seem like people.  Instead of just being inanimate objects, sounding an alarm, the bells themselves are filled with fear.  They are so scared they are screaming.  This technique is called personification.

Iron Bells

The last set of bells is made of grim, heavy iron.  Can't you just imagine the thudding sound they make when they ring?  Poe uses the symbolism of iron to emphasize how lifeless and heavy and cold the world is in this last section.  These bells seem to be the kind that toll when someone has died. In other words, we've fallen a long way from those happy little jingling silver bells.

  • Line 75:  Here the speaker underlines the "melancholy meaning" of the sound of the iron bells.  That meaning is associated with death and sadness and pain and fear.  It's a good example of alliteration, too.  Notice how sad and down-at-the-mouth those words sound:  "melancholy meaning" – just hearing them bums us out.

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