The Theme of Decay in Poe's "The Haunted Palace".

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“The Haunted Palace”

Everyone has seen a once beautiful estate fallen into disrepair: expensive satin

curtains, ripped and stained; high support columns, broken and crumbling; moss covering

the once brightly painted exterior. People look at it, sigh with disappointment at what

was and no longer is, and then move on. The cause of ruin is rarely known, but the

effects are clear. This is the scene portrayed in Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Haunted Palace.”

Poe paints a picture of an elegant manor with spectacular features that comes under the

influence of evil and thus falls to pieces. Upon closer inspection, though, the reader

begins to see that the meaning of the poem delves much deeper than the destruction of a

house: it is the destruction of the human mind that truly concerns Poe. The double

meaning is central to the poem and once the pattern of symbolism is established, the other

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details fall nicely into place. Poe uses diction to establish the brilliance that pervades the

house and symbolism within the poem equating the house to a human mind to

demonstrate its susceptibility to corruption.

Poe’s diction emphasizes the initial majesty of the house. At first, the house is

“radiant” (4), “glorious” (9), “happy” (17), “fair” (26), “sparkling” (28), and “beaut[iful]”

(31). Poe goes as far as saying that “good angels tenanted” the house (2) and the home is

softer and kinder than angels’ clothing (7). Then, in the fifth stanza, the scene changes

drastically: the palace is no longer majestic ...

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