Ligeia Analysis by Edgar Allan Poe

The use of an opening quote was a very common element in Edgar Allan Poe’s short stories. He usually sought for this opening quote to contain an important idea that connected to the story's main theme.

"And the will therein lieth, which dieth not. Who knoweth the mysteries of the will. with its vigor? For God is but a great will pervading all things by nature of its intentness. Man doth not yield himself to the angels, nor unto death utterly. save only through the weakness of his feeble will."
-Joseph Glanvill.

Edgar Allan Poe believed that the Divine (or God) was the original energy of the universe. Humans participate in this divine energy & human beings die only because their will becomes too weak....we no longer have enough of the divine energy left. This quote also implies that if ones will is not “feeble." he or she can escape death.


Music is an important element in many of Edgar Allan Poe’s stories. He believed that complex harmony (particularly of string music) could bring back echoes of this lost state of original unity. The character Ligeia seems to speak from and reside in this world. Therefore. her presence (and her voice) are associated with string music.

Images of a decaying society are extremely commonplace in Poe's writing. These stories almost always take place in "old Europe" and involve aristocratic characters. The focus on decaying/old society allows for the final step of decay (death or destruction) as a necessary part of Destructive Transcendence.

Beauty and fixation in"Ligeia"

The story suggests that some sort of “strangeness" is necessary for true beauty.

Notice the narrator’s mention of her eyes. Edgar Allan Poe (and many others) believed the eyes to be the windows to the soul.

It is very common for Poe's protagonists to become oddly fixated on a particular physical element (usually of a beautiful woman). For example. in his story Berenice, the main character feels he must possess the woman's teeth. This issue of fixation can also be seen in The Tell Tale Heart in which the narrator fixates on his neighbor's "evil eye".

Death in Ligeia

The poem in the middle (which she writes) is about death---that humans are all destined for death, but not glorious/spiritual, rather "the conqueror worm" (p.751).

After Ligeia's death, he marries Lady Rowena (her opposite).


A common theme in Poe’s writings is the idea of rooms being somewhat alive &/or reflecting the mood of the characters. In this story, their bridal chamber reflects his mind (somber, evoking the dead)... it appears to be pulsing (like its alive).

Lady Rowena's illness makes her extremely "nervous" and she first suggests that draperies are almost alive.


The main character began doing opium. But when Rowena is very weak. he believes he sees a ghost there with them. which poisons Rowena. She dies. But she keeps coming back to life. dying again. coming back to life... until finally... it's Ligeia!

Clearly, this is intended to suggest that strength of will can keep one‘s spirit within the mortal realm.

This story can be read as an allegory of destructive transcendence: His time with Ligeia represents original unity...but there is a fall from this unity (her death). Lady Rowena represents the fallen world. Her destruction occurs and Ligeia is reborn. This is an imaginative reconstruction of the state of the original unity of the universe.
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