Death as an Indisputable Ruler in The City in the Sea by Edgar Allan Poe

Death as an Indisputable Ruler in The City in the Sea by Edgar Allan Poe

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Edgar Allan Poe is best known for his short stories in a genre of Gothic fiction or Gothic horror. Poe is considered to be an interpreter of the genre as he managed to change and to renovate it by focusing on the psychology of his characters rather than on the traditional Gothic fiction elements. The theme of death is cross-cutting throughout the works of Edgar Allan Poe. His poem The City in the Sea is no exception to that rule. A well known critic T. Frederick Keefer claimed: “Edgar Allan Poe's The City in the Sea is one of the most effective products of his poetic genius and craftsmanship, but it is also the least understood of his major works.” (3, p. 436)
The main theme of the poem is death. Edgar Allan Poe likes to play with this theme in his works: He describes it from the psychological point of view and deals with every aspect of it. The author uses personification in order to show us Death as an actual character who rules in the lost city: “Lo! Death has reared himself a throne In a strange city lying alone far down within the dim West, Where the good and the bad and the worst and the best Have gone to their eternal rest.” These lines depict Death's domination over life: The setting of the sun, the location of the city and its stillness, the “eternal rest” of everything that used to be meaningful and magnificent, the way in which Death “looks gigantically down” upon his possessions, and the fact that the city is “slightly sinking”. The poem provides us with so called mental pabulum and awakes the eternal question of the rightness of our chasing-the-prosperity lifestyles. Death is inevitable and he will rule over everyone eventually. And the last lines of the poem: “Hell, rising from a thousand thrones, Shall do it reve...

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... coming to city... But no! The life of that city is Death, and he rules indisputably, as Death is the end for everything, but there is no the end for Death. Some critics suggest to read this poem in a whisper in order to be able to appreciate its mood, to feel as if Death is scouring somewhere not far or is looking upon us from his throne. The poem The City in the Sea is considered to be the best of an early works by Edgar Allan Poe as if it summaries all his literary achievements beforehand.

Bloom, Harold, “Edgar Allan Poe”, Chelsea House Publishers, 1999.
Butler, Chris. Journal for English 28. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. August 27, 1996.
Keefer, T. Frederick, “College English “The City In the Sea”: A Re-Examination”, vol.25, No.6, pp. 436-439, 1964.

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