Who is Lenore?

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I would really like to know who Lenore is before August 27, 2001.

Thank you.

-- Anonymous, August 23, 2001


I have read every work by Poe, and I based on discussions I had in college and with other Poe readers, I always assumed Lenore was the literary manifestation of Poe's mental illness, i.e., she embodied all his fears and compulsions. I dont' know if that's true or if there was indeed a living person he based her character on, but, there it is for what it's worth. Hope it helped!

-- Anonymous, August 23, 2001

I would concur insofar that simply identifying Lenore, Helen, Eleanora or even Ulalume, Annie or Annabel Lee is not ebough- even if possible. The women whom Poe loved and lost in his lifetime revolve eventually around a theme chosen by many poets to become their core inspiration for artistic expression. In "The Philosophy of Composition" and elsewhere Poe is not concerned with identities- even his own. Lenore, dead among the angels as well as others tales and poems containing such figures predate his wife's Virginia's illness. His severe reaction against the loss of his first love Ellen Royster(she remained married and very much alive)is expressed in the same theme of the tragically dead young woman.

Now the complication. This passionate choice is important personally to the poet AND is reflected or presages the patterns of losses he actually suffered. Consider Dante had Beatrice. She dies, the poetic output continues to drink from the wellspring, maturing into a rich apotheosis and resolution in the Paradiso. Poe's losses are less sentimental, less romantic, his mother, aunt, love rejection and death of his wife traumatize this process. The brilliant, in control artist underneath seems very torn, even frightened by the darkness in which despair and future heavenly hope vie terribly to render his present life untenable. So the real women seem put purposefully at a distance, almost in denial, while the defiant voice of the poet cries out for the past and future, rebels against the separation, shudders and embraces the trancelike midworld. It might seem selfish, but it seems very much that it is his state in this matter that is the primary theme of his poetry and other works. In real life he acted less self-centered but....

So the identity behind the characters is not always the most important question, nor does their fate have to exactly match the poetic symbol. His unresolved feelings regarding separation and loss springing from a run of various tragdeies are better presented here though than in many other poet's traditional requiems and laments. Read and reread Longfellow's poem on the horrific death of his first wife. There is a striking difference hard to put in a few words here. One difference is that there is no doubt or controversy whom Longfellow was referring to. THAT directness was not Poe's style. More remote, symbolic, yet more genuinely passionate and engaging.

-- Anonymous, August 23, 2001

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