Short Story Spotlight: "Ligeia" by Edgar Allan Poe

Thursday, October 11, 2012

I was very intrigued by the short story "Ligeia," which I had never heard of before, when I read Nevermore by Kelly Creagh last October. The premise is this: the narrator falls in love with a woman named Ligeia and marries her, although he knows very little about her. She is beautiful and entrances him, but at times there is something odd about her, particularly about her eyes. Eventually she dies, and the narrator is tormented. He comes into an estate and decorates it in a very dark, creepy way. He ends up marrying a woman named Rowena, who slowly declines and is overtaken by an illness. After she has allegedly died, he sits with her corpse, only to see it animated multiple times throughout the night. At the last, she rises up again and comes to him, but it is Ligeia possessing Rowena's body.

There were elements of this story that I enjoyed -- the elements that are more or less Poe's trademarks. His writing is very beautiful, even when the subject matter is extremely disturbing, and I can vividly imagine everything he describes. I also enjoy that chilling thrill at the end of a scary story, and it was certainly present in "Ligeia."

However, I felt that it took Poe a long time to get to the point in "Ligeia." While I realize that his extensive descriptions are partially what make everything so vivid, he focused at times on elements of the story that were less interesting to me and skimmed over those that I would have liked to know more about. He spends pages and pages discoursing on Ligeia's appearance and beauty, every detail about her, which became boring to me very quickly. Then he skimmed over his relationship with Rowena, mentioning briefly that he "hated" her, but never giving any inclination of why he then chose to marry her (is it just "a man's needs" or something?). While I enjoyed the "chill" at the end of the story, I felt that it took a long time to get there.

I guess in brief, while "Ligeia" was a creepy and enjoyable story, I wish that the preamble about Ligeia's appearance had been abridged while the actual events of the story had been more fleshed out. Still, it was interesting to finally read the story after seeing it referenced in Nevermore.


  1. I've had the collected works of Poe on my classics reading list for a while, and I'm thinking that this month in particular would be great to tackle some of them. So, so creepy! :)

    1. They really are so creepy -- I don't remember being that disturbed by them when I read them in high school, but some of the ones I've been reading have been freaking me out. Poe's mind must have been an odd place.


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