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PPHS English 332
American Modernism Project
American Romanticism Project
Aspects of American Romanticism
List of Romanticism Works
A Dream Within a Dream by Edgar Allan Poe
A Rainy Day by Nathaniel Hawthorne
A Walk at Sunset by William Cullen Bryant
Alone by Edgar Allan Poe
Annabel Lee by Edgar Allan Poe
Bartleby, the Scrivener by Herman Melville
Dream-Land by Edgar Allan Poe
Eldorado by Edgar Allan Poe
Eleonora by Edgar Allan Poe
Forms of Heroes by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Hop-Frog by Edgar Allan Poe
Ligeia by Edgar Allan Poe
Little Annie's Ramble by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Mr. Higginbotham's Catastrophe by Nathaniel Hawthorne
My Love by James Russell Lowell
My Low and Humble Home by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Paradise of Bachelors and the Tarturus of Maid by Herman Melville
Silence by Edgar Allan Poe
Spirits of the Dead by Edgar Allan Poe
The Ambitious Guest by Nathaniel Hawthorne
The Balloon Hoax by Edgar Allan Poe
The Bells by Edgar Allan Poe
The Black Cat by Edgar Allan Poe
The Bridal Ballad by Edgar Allan Poe
The Canterbury Pilgrims by Nathaniel Hawthorne
The Cask of Amontillado by Edgar Allan Poe
The City in the Sea by Edgar Allan Poe
The Coliseum by Edgar Allan Poe
The Darkened Mind by James Russell Lowell
The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar by Edgar Allan Poe
The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe
The Gold Bug by Edgar Allan Poe
The Happiest Day by Edgar Allan Poe
The Haunted Palace by Edgar Allan Poe
The Lake by Edgar Allan Poe
The Last Leaf by Oliver Wendell Holmes
The Lightning Rod Man by Herman Melville
The Man of the Crowd by Edgar Allan Poe
The Martyr by Herman Melville
The Masque of the Red Death by Edgar Allan Poe
The Murders in the Rue Morgue by Edgar Allan Poe
The Oval Portrait by Edgar Allan Poe
The Premature Burial by Edgar Allan Poe
The Purloined Letter by Edgar Allan Poe
The Sleeper by Edgar Allan Poe
The Spectacles by Edgar Allan Poe
The System of Dr. Tarr and Prof. Fether by Edgar Allan Poe
The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe
The Valley of Unrest by Edgar Allan Poe
To the River by Edgar Allan Poe
Ulalume by Edgar Allan Poe
What the Birds Said by John Greenleaf Whittier
William Wilson by Edgar Allan Poe
A Dream Within a Dream by Edgar Allan Poe
“A Dream within a Dream” by Edgar Allan Poe exhibits many characteristics of Dark Romanticism. It shows a reverence for the struggles of man, features a depressed narrator, and includes many descriptive words. Despite the dark themes of the work, “A Dream within a Dream” does not dwell on cynicism. It expresses much emotion in its short length of two stanzas. Within those stanzas, a psychological aspect is present that speaks of Dark Romanticism. The futility of the task of stopping sand from slipping through a loosely clasped fist is probably a reflection of Poe’s own life as a struggling writer. Stylistically, this poem is similar to other works by Poe. It carries the themes and atmospheres of others, such as the air of mystery that often pervades his works
This poem's Dark Romantic characteristics, its connection to Poe's own life, and its familiarity through other works combine to make "A Dream within a Dream" a poem worth reading.
Many characteristics of Dark Romanticism are present in “A Dream within a Dream”. The characteristic that is most apparent to readers is the reverence for the struggles of man. If taken literally, this poem is about a man who is trying to stop grains of sand from slipping through his fingers. This is hard on its own, but the narrator cannot seem to close his fist. This futility strikes upon Dark Romanticism.
This poem also features a depressed narrator. While not necessary, many Dark Romantic works feature such a narrator. His emotional state is understandable, as he seems to be saying goodbye to someone important to him. This seems to make him disillusioned with his life as he poses the question, "Is
that we see or seem but a dream within a dream?" (Poe 97). No matter how anguished the narrator gets, he still clings to hope and does not fall into complete depression. The lines, "Yet if Hope has flown away, in a night, or in a day, in a vision, or in none, is it therefore the less
?" express a desire to have the Hope return. The narrator feels hopeless, but does not give in completely to his despair, as he still tries to stop the metaphorical sand from slipping through his fingers.
This is a very emotional poem, which really fits in with Romanticism as a whole, but especially with Dark Romanticism. Dark Romanticism, more so than all of the Romanticism movement focuses on the psychological and emotional sides of human nature (Langley). This poem is emotional in itself because of the way it makes the reader feel upon reading it. It impresses on the reader the heavy emotions of sorrow and desperation, as well as that small melancholy that sits in the back of the mind. Poe is a master at calling upon the emotions that humans generally tend to avoid. This is one of the main reasons that Poe was not as successful as he could have been during his lifetime. His stories and poems make the reader think about things that they normally shy away from. The public was not ready during Poe's lifetime to experience such emotions.
On top of Poe's excellent understanding of the human mind, he also shows an understanding of language that surpasses many others in its eloquence. His words flow from one to the next. This is definitely a poem that should be read out loud, for others to enjoy. Even if the meaning is not fully devised by the audience upon reading, the words are beautiful in themselves. Poe uses his knowledge of language with great skill and includes many descriptive words. Part of what makes up the Romanticism movement is the attention to detail and description (Langley). Poe describes a "surf-tormented shore", "golden sand", and "pitiless waves" (Poe 97). Such descriptiveness lends the poem a superior quality, and it really helps the reader to picture the scene better. The imagery is what brings this poem to life.
Poe had many jobs throughout his life. He worked as an editor for several different magazines and even started his own periodical for a short time. Unfortunately, each of these positions did not last for more than a few years. Whenever he got a new job, he would move (Edgar). Such instability is reflected in the narrator's desire to hold on to something solid, rather than the shifting sands he is grasping in the poem. He was also an alcoholic. "You are not wrong who deem that my days have been a dream" (Poe 97) could be taken literally as the dreamy existence of a drunkard. "And in parting from you now" and "While I weep" are lines that reflect Poe's life, considering the fact that many people he loved died. His mother died when he was very young, and he was very deeply affected by his wife's death in 1847 (Edgar). For these reasons, this poem could also be taken as an expression of grief, where the "parting" is death, and the sand is the sand of time that is rapidly running out.
This poem is similar to many of Poe's other works. The main reason they are similar is, obviously, they were written by the same person. Looking beyond that, "A Dream within a Dream" expresses the same desperation as works such as "The Raven" and "Alone". Though they are about different things, the overall tone remains the same. This does not compare as well to Poe's "The Premature Burial" because it is much less intense. There is, however, that same foreboding in the narrator, whether it is the passage of time or the fear of being buried alive.
"A Dream within a Dream" exhibits many characteristics of Romanticism, particularly Dark Romanticism, reflects a view of the author's own life, and has the same essence of other works by Edgar Allan Poe. The psychological aspect of Dark Romanticism is present, as well as the emotional side. The shifting and futile tone of the poem is similar to Poe's experiences during his lifetime. The reader is also familiar with the topic because of the similarities between this and Poe's other works. Thus, "A Dream within a Dream" is truly a Dark Romantic poem of note.
Edgar Allan Poe, Short Stories, Tales, and Poems
. Web. 7 Dec. 2010. <
Langley, John. “Romanticism 1800-1860.”
Mr. Langley's Digital Classroom
. 24 Oct. 2010. Web. 08 Dec. 2010. <
>. Microsoft Powerpoint File.
Poe, Edgar Allan, and Patrick F. Quinn. "A Dream within a Dream."
Poetry and Tales
. New York: Literary Classics of the United States, 1984. 97. Print.
Poe, Edgar Allan, and Patrick F. Quinn. "The Premature Burial."
Poetry and Tales
. New York: Literary Classics of the United States, 1984. 666-79. Print.
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