Motifs are recurring structures, contrasts, or literary devices that can help to develop and inform the text’s major themes.


Annabel Lee is, obviously, the name of the speaker’s long-lost beloved, and her memory remains ever-present in the speaker’s mind. As such, her name has a significant presence in the poem, where it appears a total of seven times in six stanzas. The sheer amount of repetition suggests something about the speaker’s grief, and specifically about his inability to process that grief. By speaking his beloved’s name over and over, he indicates an ongoing fixation that, near the poem’s end, borders on mania. Consider, for instance, the transition from the fifth stanza to the sixth, where her name appears in every other line. The quickness of the refrain creates the effect of a broken record, stuck on repeat. But what’s significant about Annabel Lee’s name isn’t just the frequency of its appearance. Poe also uses an unusual typographical technique of writing her name entirely in capital letters: “ANNABEL LEE.” In the digital age, we tend to interpret text written all in caps as a representation of yelling. But in Poe’s case, the use of capitalization serves mainly as a visual form of emphasis that figuratively anchors each stanza, constantly drawing attention back to the speaker’s beloved.

Angels and Demons

In the middle stanzas of the poem, the speaker brings a supernatural dimension to his story by discussing angels and demons. He first mentions supernatural beings in the second stanza, where he claims that he and Annabel Lee shared a love so profound “that the wingèd seraphs of heaven / Coveted her and me” (lines 11–12). The word seraphs in line 11 refers to the highest order of angels in the Christian tradition. The speaker then attributes his beloved’s death to a cold wind caused by these angels, whose jealousy continued to perturb them even after Annabel Lee’s death: “The angels, not half so happy in heaven, / Went envying her and me!” (lines 21–22). He mentions supernatural beings once more in the fifth stanza (lines 30–33), where he insists on the eternal nature of his bond with Annabel Lee:

     And neither the angels in heaven above,
         Nor the demons down under the sea,
     Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
         Of the beautiful ANNABEL LEE.

Taken together, the speaker’s references to angels and demons reveal more than just an exaggerated belief in the significance of his long-lost love. These references also indicate how challenging he finds it to process his grief. Unable to accept that his beloved’s tragic and untimely death had natural causes, he insists on a supernatural cause.