Write an essay discussing the following points:
  1. Thoroughly show how the work of literature fits the definition of Romanticism.
  2. Show how the writer’s life affected his/her work.
  3. Show how the work compares in style, character, theme, etc. to other works by the author and to your other assigned work.

“Dream-Land” is an enthralling Dark Romanticism poem written by Edgar Allan Poe. The poem is about a man who “wanders” into a dark, dream-like realm where he encounters many mysterious, frightening shapes and creatures. Inside that dark realm, the man discovers a place of peacefulness and beauty that all people can access, but only in their dreams (Sova). This poem contains many twists that keep the reader from losing interest. Characteristics of Dark Romanticism are what make “Dream-Land” so captivating and intriguing. There are many aspects of Dark Romanticism that are evenly spread out throughout the poem, and they help to keep the story mysterious (Werlock). “Dream-Land” also reflects Poe’s life for various reasons, such as Poe’s sadness due to his loss of those close to him. Unlike other works by Poe and other Dark Romanticism authors, “Dream-Land” is often misunderstood, and many people have different opinions of what “Dream-Land” is describing. “Dream-Land” is a mysterious Dark Romanticism piece of literature that captures its readers in a dark world filled with ghosts, ghouls, and memories of the past.

Edgar Allan Poe’s “Dream-Land” reflects many aspects of Dark Romanticism. One of the largest characteristics of Dark Romanticism found in this story is the use of dark descriptive words and a very detailed setting. The following quote from “Dream-Land” contains a very detailed description of what Poe’s “dream land” looks like:

Bottomless vales and boundless floods, / And chasms, and caves, and Titan woods, / With forms that no man can discover / For the tears that drip all over; / Mountains toppling evermore / Into seas without a shore; / Seas that restlessly aspire, / Surging, unto skies of fire; / Lakes that endlessly outspread / Their lone waters— lone and dead,— / Their still waters— still and chilly / With the snows of the lolling lily. (Poe)

This quote is an example of Dark Romanticism literature because of how detailed the setting is (Werlock). The reader can get a very vivid image of what the “dream land” looks like just by this stanza. There are many other aspects of Dark Romanticism used in this poem, such as personification (Krueger). There is an example of personification in the above quote that reads, “Seas that restlessly aspire, / Surging, unto skies of fire;” (Poe). This quote is personifying the ocean. The ocean hopes and dreams of one day being able to reach the sky, exploding upward to meet it. The ocean has feelings and emotions of its own. Another example of personification in “Dream-Land” is, “By a route obscure and lonely,” (Poe). The route is personified in this quote. The route is given the emotion of loneliness.

Another characteristic of Dark Romanticism in this poem is the use of mystery (Werlock). The whole poem is mysterious because it is never clear where the man’s journey begins or ends, and the reader is unsure of where the man came from or where he is going. The setting of the poem is also mysterious because of the use of words that are implying infinite space. For example, Poe uses the verses, “Bottomless vales and boundless floods,” (Poe). The words “bottomless” and “boundless” give the reader a sense of mystery because it is indefinite where they may begin or end.

The last characteristic of Dark Romanticism in “Dream-Land” is the use of evil in the form of ghosts and ghouls ("Dark Romanticism"). In the beginning of the poem, Poe writes, “Haunted by ill angels only, / Where an Eidolon, named NIGHT, / On a black throne reigns upright,” (Poe). The word “Eidolon” means a phantom or an apparition (Eidolon). The Eidolon is sitting upon his throne rigidly, and it is meant to make the reader feel fear. The ill angels that haunt the setting of “Dream-Land” are supposedly the minions of Satan when he fell from grace. The Eidolon and the ill angels combined are meant to make the “dream land” appear hellish and terrifying (Huff). “Dream-Land” expresses almost endless amounts of Dark Romanticism characteristics.

“Dream-Land” is very reflective of Poe’s own personal life for a few strong reasons. When Poe was only two years old, his mother passed away ("A Short"). He lived his life without really knowing his real mother, which partially contributes to his loneliness. He was shunned later in his life by his adoptive father, John Allan, because Poe had taken up drinking, and he later became heavily in debt. He was forced to drop out of college shortly afterwards. His adoptive mother died a small time later ("A Short").. Poe’s life was slowly spiraling downwards. He had no money, no job, and no friends. Poe begged John Allan for money, but Allan ignored him then later passed away, not mentioning Poe in his will (“A Short”). Poe’s life slowly became more and more lonely. All of these instances influenced this poem because he expressed his loneliness and sadness in his writing, and it shows prominently in “Dream-Land”. In the poem, Poe makes many references to being lonely. He personifies “the route”, calling it “obscure and lonely” (Poe). He also says, “Lakes that endlessly outspread / Their lone waters— lone and dead,—“ (Poe). In these two quotes, Poe is, in a way, describing himself. He is lonely and sad because of all of the loss he has suffered in his life. Poe’s loss of his loved ones also has an effect on “Dream-Land”. Near the middle of the poem, Poe brings “ghouls” into the story. At first, the ghouls are meant to be scary and threatening, but later in the poem it is revealed that the ghouls are not meant to be terrifying monsters. In the poem, Poe says, “White—robed forms of friends long given, / In agony, to the Earth— and Heaven.” (Poe). This quote is extremely important and vital to the story. The quote is saying that the ghouls are not just abstract shapes; they appear in the shape of those that the man has lost. This is representative of Poe’s life because Poe lost so many people that were close to his heart. Poe wished that he could see the ones he had lost again.

“Dream-Land” is very similar to Poe’s other poetry works. His writing style stays relatively the same for nearly all of his poems. He is a Dark Romanticism writer though, so all of his works are going to be somewhat similar. They all focus on the dark side of things, and they are all somewhat melancholy. Compared to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Minister’s Black Viel”, which is not a poem, but he is still a Dark Romanticist, this poem was more emotional and personal. Hawthorne’s writing style in “The Minister’s Black Viel” is much simple, and the details are not nearly as mysterious or enticing as those found in “Dream-Land”. "The Minister's Black Viel" may be more relatable, but as far as Dark Romanticism literature goes, Poe’s “Dream-Land” has more qualities of Dark Romanticism than Hawthorne’s short story.

Edgar Allan Poe’s “Dream-Land” is an excellent and captivating work of Dark Romanticism literature. Poe uses multiple aspects of Dark Romanticism in his poem, including personification, detailed settings, dark descriptions, mystery, and the belief of sin and evil in the form of characters from the poem (Werlock). Poe’s life affected how he wrote this poem because he channeled all of his loneliness and sadness into his writing, and it is easy to see that in “Dream-Land”. This poem was very interesting and it keeps readers’ attention very well with Poe’s use of mystery. Compared to other Dark Romanticism writers, Edgar Allan Poe is still the best. His title as King of Dark Romanticism still stands today.

Works Cited

Krueger, Christine, ed. "Romanticism." Encyclopedia of British Writers, 19th Century, vol. 1. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2002.Bloom's Literary Reference Online. Facts On File, Inc. http://www.fofweb.com/activelink2.asp?ItemID=WE54&SID=5&iPin= GEBWIXX351&SingleRecord=True (accessed December 31, 2010).

Werlock, Abby H. P. "gothic." The Facts On File Companion to the American Short Story, Second Edition. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2009. Bloom's Literary Reference Online. Facts On File, Inc. http://www.fofweb.com/activelink2.asp?ItemID=WE54&SID=5&iPin= CASS391&SingleRecord=True (accessed December 31, 2010).

“Dark Romanticism - American Narrative." Dark Romanticism. Web. 31 Dec. 2010. <http://iron.lcc.gatech.edu/~ntrivedi6/1102/index.php/Dark_Romanticism>.

Sova, Dawn B. "'Dream-Land'." Critical Companion to Edgar Allan Poe: A Literary Reference to His Life and Work, Critical Companion. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2007. Bloom's Literary Reference Online. Facts On File, Inc. http://www.fofweb.com/activelink2.asp?ItemID=WE54&SID=5&iPin= ffazpoe037701&SingleRecord=True (accessed December 11, 2010).

Poe, Edgar Allan. "Dream-Land by Edgar Allan Poe." Edgar Allan Poe, Short Stories, Tales, and Poems. Web. 11 Dec. 2010. <http://poestories.com/read/dreamland>.

"Eidolon | Define Eidolon at Dictionary.com." Dictionary.com | Find the Meanings and Definitions of Words at Dictionary.com. Web. 11 Dec. 2010. <http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/eidolon>.

Huff, Randall. "'Dream-Land'." The Facts On File Companion to American Poetry, vol. 1. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2007. Bloom's Literary Reference Online. Facts On File, Inc. http://www.fofweb.com/activelink2.asp?ItemID=WE54&SID=5&iPin=/CPAP0108&SingleRecord=True (accessed December 11, 2010).

"A Short Biography of Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849)." Edgar Allan Poe, Short Stories, Tales, and Poems. Web. 11 Dec. 2010. <http://www.poestories.com/biography.php>.