"Eleonora", "Ligeia", "Berenice", and "Morella" are all tales of beautiful women who die, but they are hardly the same story. They contain many of the same elements and activities, but their genius comes in the unique and sometimes subtle differences and intense endings.
In all of the stories we have a narrator who is involved with a woman whose beauty entrances him. Some of the qualities of these women overlap in their description, but each narrator admires a unique quality that becomes their obsession. The death and resurrection of these women causes mental and emotional strain on the part of the narrator.
Berenice is described as "agile, graceful and overflowing with energy" with "gorgeous yet fantastic beauty". Some of her physical characteristics included a high forehead and pale skin with "hollow temples" and curly hair. In this story the narrator is focused on Berenice's teeth. "But from the distorted chamber of my brain; had not, alas! departed, and would not be driven away, the white and ghastly spectrum of her teeth". Why the narrator chooses her teeth to obsess about is puzzling, perhaps they represent purity (Griffin) or they are special because they are the only things that did not change when she became ill. Ligeia is described as tall and slender with a "lofty pale forehead" and "skin rivaling the purest ivory". "In the beauty of face no maiden ever equaled her". The narrator notices the "gentle prominence of the regions above the temples" and her raven black tresses. But it is her "large eyes" that haunt him. Eleonora is given the characteristics of "bright eyes" and a "sweet voice". The narrator says, "The loveliness of Eleonora was that of...
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...er intimate connection to nature?
Because all of these stories are told from male narrator's point of view we are only allowed to know these women as the narrators knew them. And whether by their own admission or by the style of their narrative voice all of the narrators' mental stability is brought into question. Will the reader accept the narrator's account or does Poe intentionally cast doubt on these men to let the reader know these women only exist in the minds of the narrators?
In all of these stories the women possess the narrators in life and in death. While Poe may appear to be recycling these women, they each have unique purposes and characteristics. The attention to detail and the intricacies that Poe weaves into his tales of these women and the men in their lives, relying on the mysteries of the supernatural, makes these stories intense.
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