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"A Dream" Analysis

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Edgar Allan Poe, a writer known in almost all secondary schools. Poe is famous for his mysterious, dark short stories and poems. The poem that will be discussed throughout this essay is “A Dream” written by Edgar Allan Poe. Throughout many literary works a reader may be able to pull out different interpretations by the process of analyzing. When analyzing a piece of work, especially one written by such a well-known artist, you must do it justice and follow the steps while reading and rereading a piece. The steps that are generally taken include analyzing the following: literal meaning and themes, tone, structure, and imagery and language.

When an individual initially examines a piece of work by any artist the literal meaning may be obvious. In the case of “A Dream” by Edgar Allan Poe the literal meaning is in the title of the piece of work. “A Dream” is about a dream that the speaker is having. The speaker describes this dream by stating, “in visions of the dark night” (1). This quote leaves an impression of darkness upon the readers, which could very well be a paradox to having a dream. When people think about dreaming, they think of sleeping and having visions throughout their sleep. Seeing only darkness while sleeping may suggest that the speaker is not dreaming at all. The speaker then goes on to say s/he has “dreamed of joy departed” (2), which tells us that the dream that this reader is having is rather depressing and sad. The said dream leaves the speaker feeling rather heart-broken throughout the following day. Reading this poem one may think that the title is all that the poem holds, a dream. However, while analyzing, one should pick out and look closely at the different aspects and in this case not get to hung up on the idea of just a dream. It is important to keep the tone of the speaker in mind while reading and rereading a piece of writing.

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The tone of a poem is quite simply the writer’s attitude towards the subject of the poem. “A Dream” suggests a dark dream, and the tone carries along with the darkness of the poem. Darkness is not an unusual tone or theme for Edgar Allan Poe. Along with carrying along a dark tone throughout the poem, it also appears to be quite formal. Poe uses words such as “hath” instead of “has” and “afar” rather than the simple word “far”. In contrast to the first three stanzas that hold this dark and formal tone steady, the fourth stanza actually provides a nice light tone. “What could there be more purely bright” (15), this is the line in stanza four that suggest a bit of a lighter or brighter term. When the audience reads this line, they may picture a “purely bright” light, which differs a lot from the darkness that was introduced in the first three stanzas. Many of Poe’s writings are far from usual, but Poe’s structure is what one does expect and generally enjoy while reading a poem.

Edgar Allan Poe’s “A Dream” consists of four stanzas that contain four lines each. This described structure is what one may expect while reading a poem, it seems to be the safe way to write a poem. Poe’s first stanza introduces the poem by describing a dark dream that the writer is experiencing. Then, the second stanza continues introducing this dream to readers and also goes on to explain how this darkness follows the speaker through his next day by writing, “Ah! What is not a dream by day” (5). The third paragraph starts to change the tone a bit by introducing a happier tonight by saying, “Hath cheered me as a lovely beam” (11). Finally, in the fourth and final stanza the tone changes completely, and readers are left feeling optimistic about the speaker’s feelings. All four stanzas fit together and follow one another in a simple order that the audience is able to follow and understand. The structure is easy to understand in this poem. However, the language is not so easy to understand for current readers, but the imagery stays to provide the reader with a picture in their mind of what the speaker is seeing, or rather dreaming, of.

The language, as I mentioned earlier, appears to be more formal. Using words such as “hath” and “afar” seems quite odd for those who are reading in 2018, however this language was common when “A Dream” was published in the 1800’s. The language still was a bit formal and the way it is used throughout this poem still seems as though it would not be used in a casual conversation between friends. Although the language may be a bit difficult to understand for some readers, the imagery is quite blatant. The speaker uses imagery throughout the poem by saying things such as, “A lonely spirit guiding” (12). This line may create a picture of a spirit that is gliding through the night or through a dream. Imagery is used in the poem to create the dark tone, and then is also used to create the lighter tone in the last two stanzas. An example of a change of imagery and tone in the last two stanzas would be, “What though that light, thro’ storm and night” (13), where one could picture the light after a storm or the break of dawn after a long night. Imagery, as well as language, was used in “A Dream” by Edgar Allan Poe to create the two contrasting tones and feelings for readers.

Reading a poem is much more than just reading. It is being able to read and then reread and see things that you may have not seen during the first time. Being able to analyze a poem is quite simple, and many do it unconsciously. If one is able to decipher the different ways of analyzing a poem, then it will be much easier to notice the different paradoxes, meanings, tones, structure, imagery, and language. Knowing and recognizing these different aspects of a poem is important when one is truly interested in a piece of work or in a writer. Although poems may seem simple, just like one may think Poe’s “A Dream” was just about a dark dream, it may be much more. It may be, for instance, a dark dream that the speaker ended up feeling inspired from and growing from, developing a new outlook on the world s/he lives in.

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