The most obvious feature of “Annabel Lee” is the speaker’s use of repetition. Repetition takes different forms throughout the poem, producing various effects. Perhaps the most significant instance of repetition occurs in the poem’s end rhymes. Almost without exception, the speaker uses a repeating rhyme scheme where the only words used for end rhymes consists of “me” (or “we,” in stanza 6), “sea” and “LEE.” The repetition of these end rhymes, to the virtual exclusion of others, has a powerful effect on the reader. For one thing, the repetition reflects the intensity of the speaker’s grief. It also reflects the obsessiveness of his recollections and produces an almost incantatory effect, as if he desires to resurrect his long-lost love through the spell of ritualized repetition. But the speaker doesn’t just repeat individual words. He also repeats entire lines, often verbatim, but also sometimes in a slightly different form that uses a parallel word order and structure. Identical and parallel versions of the line, “In a kingdom by the sea,” appear eight times in the poem. Likewise, versions of the line, “My beautiful ANNABEL LEE,” can be heard seven times.


The entirety of “Annabel Lee” consists of the speaker describing his outsized affection for his long-dead beloved. His emphasis on the eternal nature of their connection, as well as the otherworldly envy spawned by their love, offers a clear example of overstatement. Also known by the term hyperbole (hi-PER-buh-lee), overstatement refers to examples of extravagant exaggeration. Though often used to comedic effect, the speaker’s use of overstatement in “Annabel Lee” is decidedly mournful. Consider these lines from the second stanza:

     But we loved with a love that was more than love—
         I and my ANNABEL LEE—
     With a love that the wingèd seraphs of heaven
         Coveted her and me.

In these lines (9–12), the speaker claims that the highest order of angels, the seraphim, coveted the connection he once had with Annabel Lee. In stanza 5, he inflates this claim to suggest that their love surpassed anything known in either heaven or hell. Such exaggerations are patently delusional, even if they do suggest the intensity of his ongoing grief. On a rhetorical level, the speaker further exaggerates his adoration by using a particular type of repetition called diacope (die-ACK-uh-pee). Diacope involves the repetition of a word with one or more words appearing in between. In this case, the speaker repeats the word “love” to express the almost inexpressible greatness of his “love that was more than love.”

Pathetic Fallacy

Pathetic fallacy names a phenomenon where a poet or speaker projects human thoughts, feelings, or capabilities onto an inanimate natural object. As such, pathetic fallacy is similar to the poetic device known as personification. However, pathetic fallacy tends to be less formal and more indirect than personification. In “Annabel Lee,” pathetic fallacy arises most clearly in the third stanza (lines 13–16). There, the speaker explains how the cold wind that afflicted his beloved had been caused by supernatural jealousy:

     And this was the reason that, long ago,
         In this kingdom by the sea,
     A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
         My beautiful ANNABEL LEE.

The speaker doesn’t explicitly attribute jealousy to the wind, which would have resulted in an example of personification. Instead, he interprets the arrival of the cold wind as an expression of supernatural envy. The most likely scenario is that the wind simply blew—that is, it was a completely natural occurrence that can’t be attributed to some human-like agency. But the speaker, in his pain and grief, projects his own emotions onto the wind, falsely attributing to it a murderous intent.