Study Guide

Ulalume Memory and the Past

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Memory and the Past

The big, exciting turn in "Ulalume" is all about remembering, about bringing the past painfully back to life.  The poem plays with ideas of forgetfulness and amnesia.  Sometimes forgetting seems like an accident; other times it looks more like a desire, an act of self-defense to escape from painful memories.  Memory and the past are dangerous, and forgetting is a way to escape.  Only for a while, though…

Questions About Memory and the Past

  1. Have you ever lost your memory, even for a short time?  Do you think your memory changes when you are upset?
  2. Do you think that memory is a good or bad thing here?  Should we be happy when the speaker gets his memory back?
  3. Does it matter that this poem is written in the past tense?  How would it be different if the speaker was describing things in the present tense, as they were happening to him?
  4. Is this poem about the memory of Ulalume?  Or is it really about something else entirely?

Chew on This

The repetitive elements of the poem's structure create a feeling of dreamy forgetfulness that reinforces the themes of grief and memory loss.

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