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A Dream Within a Dream

A Dream Within a Dream

by Edgar Allan Poe

Dreams

Symbol Analysis

Life is a dream. That's this poem's central claim and question. At times, the speaker seems totally convinced that everything around him is just one big illusion, but sometimes he's not so sure. But the real question is, where does all this angst come from? Why's the speaker so worried about it in the first place? For him, it seems to come from the fact that once he's lost someone or something, he can't help but wonder if he ever really had it in the first place.

  • Lines 4-5: The speaker tells the woman she is not wrong in saying that all his days have been a dream. This sounds like some sort of passive form of acceptance. Rather than agree with her outright, the speaker simply says she is not wrong. The repetition of the D in these two lines is an example of alliteration.
  • Line 8: In a poem that is dreamy and about dreams, we'll take the word "vision" to refer to some kind of dream-like experience.
  • Line 9: Here's our first hint that this poem might be about more than just dreams. It could also be about loss. Once something is gone from our speaker's life, it opens up the possibility that when he had it, he was merely dreaming.
  • Lines 10-11: The speaker now declares that all that we see, and all that we seem, is just a dream within a dream. Life isn't real; it's a fantasy or illusion. Is it produced by our minds? Is this just a metaphor for the ways in which our minds will always process reality for us? Where does this illusion even come from?
  • These questions remain unanswered so we don't know. What we do know is that there's some more alliteration. We also know that these lines become a refrain.
  • Lines 23-24: The speaker phrases the refrain as a question, rather than a statement. This suggests that he's not so sure about whether or not everything is just a dream within a dream. He's holding out hope for something "real."

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