Study Guide

A Dream Within a Dream Isolation

By Edgar Allan Poe

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"A Dream Within a Dream" is all about being alone. The speaker says goodbye to a woman in the first stanza, and spends the second isolated on a beach as he contemplates one of life's biggest questions: is what we see real? It sure sounds like this is something every person must deal with on their own time, by themselves, not in the company of other people. This may be because the answer to the riddle of reality requires some quiet time, or is just different for everybody. Plus, think about it: dreaming is something we do solo, so if life really is a dream within a dream, well, then were all alone for all of it.

Questions About Isolation

  1. Why do you think the speaker leaves the woman and seeks isolation? Are there any hints in the poem that can help you answer?
  2. Does this poem contain any images of isolation's opposite, community? If so, what images?
  3. Does the speaker seem okay with his isolation? Or does he seem upset by his loneliness?
  4. How are dreams and isolation related? Does the speaker's departure from the women suggest that he is waking up alone and leaving the dream world? Or is it the other way around?

Chew on This

Big questions about the nature of reality must be contemplated in isolation.

The speaker's lonely search for answers ends in failure, which implies that isolation may not be the best way to go. Just sayin'.

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