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Many women return from the dead in Poe’s stories, and
Lady Ligeia is the most alluring of them all. Ligeia’s sudden reappearance
casts doubt on the mental stability of her husband, the tale’s narrator.
Poe does not focus on the narrator’s unreliability but instead develops the
character of the dark and brilliant Ligeia. Ligeia’s dark features contrast
with those of the narrator’s second wife, the fair-skinned and blonde
Lady Rowena. Ligeia does not disappear from the story after her
apparent death. In order to watch over her husband and his cold
new bride, Ligeia becomes part of the Gothic architecture of the
bridal chamber. Poe symbolically translates Ligeia’s dark, haunting
physical qualities into the Gothic and grotesque elements of the
bedroom, including the eerie gold tapestries that Rowena believes
comes alive. Ligeia is not only one of the dead who come alive but
also a force that makes physical objects come alive. She uses these
forces to doom the narrator’s second marriage, and her manifestations
in the architecture of the bedroom, whether real or the product
of the narrator and his wife’s imaginations, testify to the power
of past emotions to influence the present and the future.
Ace your assignments with our guide to Poe’s Short Stories!