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by Edgar Allan Poe

Ulalume Theme of Death

This one is kind of a slam-dunk for an Edgar Allan Poe poem.  Death, and especially the death of young, lovely women, is the driving force behind a surprising number of his stories and poems, as it is in "Ulalume." In this poem, the speaker is miserable because Ulalume is dead. So death is a source of sadness. At the same time, though, the speaker wishes that he were dead, so that he would no longer be suffering. In that sense, death is also presented as an escape.

Questions About Death

  1. Is this poem more about life or death?  How do you balance the crazy, active energy of the speaker's emotions with the death of Ulalume and the dreary landscape?
  2. Does this seem like a realistic portrait of grief for a dead loved one?  Why or why not?
  3. Is death just part of the natural order?  Is it the same as the changing of the seasons?  Do you think this poem makes it seem that way?
  4. Does death seem like an evil force in this poem?

Chew on This

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

The poem never directly describes the terrible events that threw the narrator into despair. Instead, "Ulalume" creates an effective portrait of grief by showing the effects of death on the human mind and soul.

The poem carefully balances life and death. The life and vigor in the language contrasts with the constant references to death. This reveals the profound interdependence of these two apparently opposing forces.

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