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.

be sure to use MLA parenthetical citations and place your Works Cited list at the bottom of the page


"The City in the Sea", by Edgar Allan Poe, is a very detailed poem about the discovery of a city that has been sunk far below the waves of the surface of the ocean (Poe, "The City"). This work, reflects the very definition of Dark Romantic stories and poems, by using plenty of detail pertaining to the divine simplicity of nature, while keeping the tone of the poem very dark and dim. Not only does the poem "The City in the Sea" relate to the very definition of Dark Romanticism, but it also relates to the actual life of Edgar Allen Poe, from his humble early life when he was an orphan due to the death of his mother, to his later days when he was struggling with drug and financial problems. The poem the City in the Sea also compares in many ways with Poe's other poems because of the general dark tone he likes to use in his works and the events he in life he likes to represent in his style of writing.

Dark Romanticism is defined as a type of writing that uses psychological fears, emotions, superstitions, and mystery, which also tends to use nature as a force (Langley). The poem “The City and the Sea” truly reflects the very definition of Dark Romanticism simply because of the way that Poe uses “the sea” in the poem as a force of nature. For example, in the poem, Poe states,

Up many and many a marvellous shrine
Whose wreathed friezes intertwine
The viol, the violet, and the vine.
Resignedly beneath the sky
The melancholy waters lie.
So blend the turrets and shadows there
That all seem pendulous in air,
While from a proud tower in the town
Death looks gigantically down (Poe, "The City").

In these lines, it is clear that Poe uses “the sea” as a force in the fact that early in the sequence, Poe describes many beautiful and soothing things within the city very clearly to give the reader a very clear sense of relaxation, but then he goes on to remind the reader that these things have been buried very deep under the “melancholy waters,” which then gives the reader a sense of distress and uneasiness, proving that this use of nature as a force in this work relates to the very definition of Dark Romanticism (Poe, "The City"). After the line, “The melancholy waters lie” Poe goes on to give some more examples of beauty found in the ruined city such as “a proud tower” and “blending the turrets and shadows.” He then ends the excerpt with the line “Death looks gigantically down” (Poe, "The City"). These lines also reflect the definition of Dark Romanticism because of the way that Poe uses a dark tone or dark emotion throughout the entire story, even though he is describing such beautiful things. Dark Romantic writers often use this technique of writing in their stories because they tend to follow the idea that there is always darkness and ruin in the word, no matter how happy or beautiful a certain moment or time is (Langley).

The life of Edgar Allen Poe is actually very sad and depressing. At the age of two, Poe’s mother died making his early life relatively unstable (Barney, Paddock). He then moved in with John Allan, who would later have a very big impact on Edgar’s life, and his wife, Rosalie Allan. When Edgar went to college, John Allen was very wealthy, but actually only gave Edgar about one third of the money he needed. Poe later had to drop out of college because of debt and was shunned by Allan (Barney, Paddock). Years later when Allan wrote his will, he would not mention one thing about Edgar. Soon after, Poe met his love, Virginia Clemm, when moving in with his Aunt Clemm (Barney, Paddock). Virginia and Edgar were married shortly after and Edgar found a job working as a newspaper editor. This is when Edgar began his writing career. Even though Edgar had some success with his short story “The Gold Bug,” Poe never gained enough money to get out of debt. Years after Poe had his first job, he would go on and be hired for some others, but he could never make enough money from the success of his own writing to stay out of debt (Barney, Paddock). Ten Days after his birthday in 1847, his wife Virginia died from sickness. This was a massive turn in Edgar’s life. After this event, Poe became extremely depressed dealing with the grieving from the death of his wife and actually picked up drugs. Things never really changed for Poe from then on in his life. Finally, in 1849, Allan was found collapsed in a house in Baltimore (Barney, Paddock). He was taken to the hospital where he died the next morning on October 7th. The cause of his death was not known and is actually still under debate today (Barney, Paddock). Historians actually believe that the common tragedy and pessimism in the life of Poe was actually the main cause of him becoming a Dark Romantic writer. It is easy for the reader to see how many events in Poe’s life relate to the poem “The City in the Sea.” In the poem, Poe takes many descriptions from the once beautiful city, and describes how the city has been filled with death and gloom. For example, Poe writes,

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 (Poe, "The City").

From this quote, it is clear that the tone of the poem is very dark and dim. Poe wrote this poem later in his life (Barney, Paddock). This fact shows that at this point in his life, Poe had already faced a lot of tragedy throughout his life. The poem reflects a lot about Poe and actually describes a lot that he faced in his life. In the Poem, Poe describes a once beautiful city that was peaceful and pure, that had been ruined by the aging of the sea, and how it now was very worn down and depressing (Poe, "The City"). This reflects Poe’s life in the fact that when he wrote this poem, he had faced lots of very tough times in his life. Poe actually reflects the city in the poem. At the beginning, life was going well for Poe. He lived with a wealthy family and attended a wealthy school (Barney, Paddock). With age though, he was worn down due to his consistent debt and abandonment by his family. This represents the aging city in the sea, being worn by depression and death without anyone to notice but Poe.

The poem “The City in the Sea” relates to many other works by Poe including ‘The Pit and the Pendulum” and “The Gold Bug.” In the story “The Pit and the Pendulum,” there is a man in a prison who is being forced to death by torture (Poe,"The Pit"). This story relates to the poem “The City in the Sea” because of the mysterious yet depressing tone that Poe uses in his work. For example, in “The Pit in the Pendulum,” Poe unknowingly makes the tone of the story get darker by the second. At the beginning of the story, the character has no idea where he is (Poe,"The Pit"). Suddenly he is put into two death traps which he unbelievably escapes. By the end of the story, the reader finally notices that Poe has made the tone extremely dark and depressing (Poe,"The Pit"). In comparison, this is similar to “The City in the Sea” also because of the way Poe makes the tone very dark. In the poem, Poe begins with describing the beauty found within the city, but then goes on to makes the tone of the poem very dark by describing the eroded shape of the city and the death that surrounds it. This poem also relates to the story "The Gold Bug" because of the extremely exhausting trip that the character go on to find the treasure, and how it slowly wears the characters down because of the difficulty of the trip (Poe,"The Gold").

The poem "The City in the Sea" relates to the definition of Dark Romanticism in the fact that Poe describes nature as a force, and he also keeps the tone of the entire poem very dark and dim (Langley). Poe's life affected his work in the fact that when he was young, he related to the beautiful city, but as time went on, he was warn down by the events that had taken place in his life similar to how the sea wore down the city. Finally, "The City in the Sea" relates to other works by Poe like "The Pit and the Pendulum" and "Gold Bug" by taking the mysterious mood at the beginning of each work, and making the tone darker and using nature to describe the ruin that has taken place in each work.

Works Cited


Barney, Brett, and Lisa Paddock, eds. "Poe, Edgar Allan." Encyclopedia of American Literature: The Age of Romanticism and Realism, 1816–1895, vol. 2, Revised Edition. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2008. Bloom's Literary Reference Online. Facts On File, Inc. http://www.fofweb.com/activelink2.asp?ItemID=WE54&SID=5&iPin= EAmL0723&SingleRecord=True (accessed December 9, 2010).

Langley, John R. "Romanticism 1800-1860." Mr. Langley's Digital Classroom. Google, 24 Oct. 2010. Web. 9 Dec. 2010. <http://sites.google.com/site/mrlangleysroom/>. Microsoft Power Point File.

Poe, Edgar A. "The City in the Sea by Edgar Allan Poe." The Literature Network: Online Classic Literature, Poems, and Quotes. Essays & Summaries. Jalic Inc., 2000. Web. 09 Dec. 2010. <http://www.online-literature.com/poe/2142/>. (Poe, Pit)

Poe, Edgar A. "The Gold Bug." University of Virginia Library. University of Virginia. Web. 09 Dec. 2010. <http://etext.virginia.edu/toc/modeng/public/PoeGold.html>.

Poe, Edgar A. "The Pit and the Pendulum." University of Virginia Library. University of Virginia. Web. 09 Dec. 2010. <http://etext.virginia.edu/toc/modeng/public/PoePend.html>.