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Symbol Analysis

This particular lady is the main focus of the speaker's obsessive thoughts. He brings her up constantly, and even when he tries to think about something else, he always ends up back at Lenore. Despite this, we don't actually learn that much about her. We don't hear what she looks like or how she is related to our speaker (wife? girlfriend? sister?). She's an idea, a memory, but she never really becomes a full-fledged character.

  • Lines 10-11: Here's where we first hear Lenore's name. At almost the same moment, we hear that she is lost; it doesn't take us long to figure out that she is dead, since only the angels know her name now. We should also point out a major technique in the poem that shows up here. When the first sounds of two words begin with the same sound, as in "rare and radiant" (line 11), we call it alliteration. Poe uses it like it's going out of style. Once you start looking, you'll see it everywhere in this poem.
  • Lines 28-29: In the first line here (line 28), we hear Lenore's name being whispered, but can't tell where it's coming from. In Line 29, we find out that the speaker has spoken her name, and that this is just the echo whispering back. Lenore's presence seems to lurk everywhere in the poem.
  • Line 77-78: This is yet another moment in which the speaker's wandering thoughts take him back to Lenore. We think this one is intentionally a little over the top. Basically, he remembers that Lenore's butt used to press into this cushion when she was alive. He doesn't come right out and say it, but it's there, and it's pretty weird way to remember a loved one. You might remember the way someone laughed, or the way they smiled, but not necessarily the way she pressed on a chair. We think Poe is injecting some irony into this description, and helping us see how out of control this guy really is.
  • Line 83: Here our speaker fantasizes about forgetting Lenore forever. Her memory has become a curse, and all he wants is some relief from the pain of thinking about her. Little chance of that, though, since this is a Poe poem.
  • Lines 94-95: Here is the final direct mention of Lenore. Here he seems completely filled with love for this dead woman. It's almost a little too much. He calls her "sainted," "rare," "radiant." In a sense, this Lenore is not anything like a real person. She's an ideal, a symbol of what the narrator thinks a perfect, unspoiled, untouchable woman ought to be. To this grief-stricken man, she stops being human and becomes a heavenly saint.

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