“The Haunted Palace”
Everyone has seen a once beautiful estate fallen into disrepair: expensive satin curtains, ripped and stained; high support columns, broken and crumbling; moss covering the once brightly painted exterior. People look at it, sigh with disappointment at what was and no longer is, and then move on. The cause of ruin is rarely known, but the effects are clear. This is the scene portrayed in Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Haunted Palace.” Poe paints a picture of an elegant manor with spectacular features that comes under the influence of evil and thus falls to pieces. Upon closer inspection, though, the reader begins to see that the meaning of the poem delves much deeper than the destruction of a house: it is the destruction of the human mind that truly concerns Poe. The double meaning is central to the poem and once the pattern of symbolism is established, the other details fall nicely into place. Poe uses diction to establish the brilliance that pervades the house and symbolism within the poem equating the house to a human mind to demonstrate its susceptibility to corruption.
Poe’s diction emphasizes the initial majesty of the house. At first, the house is “radiant” (4), “glorious” (9), “happy” (17), “fair” (26), “sparkling” (28), and “beaut[iful]” (31). Poe goes as far as saying that “good angels tenanted” the house (2) and the home is softer and kinder than angels’ clothing (7). Then, in the fifth stanza, the scene changes drastically: the palace is no longer majestic and stately, it is inhabited by evil and is in disarray. It is now permeated by “sorrow” (33) and is “desolate” (35). The sudden shift from uplifting words to mournful ones alerts the reader to the dire change that has taken place in the house.
After a second reading, the audience begins to notice a pattern of symbolism. Poe equates the “Thought’s dominion” (5), “banners,” (9), “windows” (18), “door” (26), and “Echoes” (29) to a human’s head, hair, eyes, mouth, and voice. The hair is...
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