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Themes

On the surface, "The Haunted Palace" is a poem about a palace, and the terrible things that happen to it as time goes by. Below the surface though, the features of this palace match up with the features of a human head. As we get toward the end, we realize that this poem is an allegory for a man's descent into madness. The palace-head goes from being cheerful, orderly, and in-tune to being grim, disordered, and pretty much just totally out-of-whack.

Questions About Madness

  1. How does the feeling of the poem change in the last two stanzas? What do you think is the most important aspect of that change?
  2. Does the whole palace-as-head allegory work for you? Do you feel the effect of the descent into madness and disorder at the end? Why or why not?
  3. What's the most disturbing image in the final two stanzas and why?
  4. Do you agree that madness is the problem with the palace-head? Are there other possibilities? If so, what are they?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

The cryptic hints of madness that we get in the final stanzas are all the scarier for not being out in the open. As the poem descends into insanity, we're never quite sure where we're headed or why. It's like we're on the road to Madnessville and our GPS just broke.

The image of figures laughing without smiling in the final line (kind of like what we do at family reunions) delivers the final blow, pulling all the previous images of happiness into the vortex of madness that takes over the poem.

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