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Themes

About two-thirds of the way through "The Haunted Palace" (at the beginning of the fifth stanza), things take a nasty turn. Everything that was bright and cheerful and uplifting suddenly turns dark and miserable and depressing. Something has happened to the palace, and for the rest of the poem we get a kind of dark mirror image of the happy place we started out with. The descriptive language has changed. Now all of a sudden the palace and the things that come out of it are "desolate" (36), "ghastly" (45), and "hideous" (47). Bad times all around.

Questions About Sadness

  1. Why is the switch so complete in this poem? What's the effect on the reader (that's you!) of having everything seem so happy, and then suddenly become so sad?
  2. Do you feel more sad or horrified at the end of this poem? Or do you get another feeling entirely? What creates that feeling?
  3. Can we learn something about sadness from this poem? Does it seem like there's a lesson here, or is sadness just something that happens to the palace and the king?
  4. Does the image of laughing without smiling (48) creep you out too? Is that feeling related to sadness? If so, how? If not, why not?

Chew on This

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

The "Haunted Palace" mingles images of sadness and horror in the last two stanzas (like worst peanut butter cup ever) as a way of making the reader feel the terrible consequences of insanity.

There is no explanation for why the palace is attacked by "evil things." Essentially, the poem presents sadness as a random and meaningless consequence of bad luck, not as something that we can learn to avoid. Feel better, now?

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