“The Bells” by Edgar Allan Poe

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Analysis of “The Bells”

Edgar Allan Poe was a master of the macabre, and his poem “The Bells” is no exception. The poem, originally published in 1849, is a classic example of Poe’s use of onomatopoeia, symbolism, and alliteration to bring to life the emotions of fear and dread associated with bells. In this blog post, we will dive deep into the poem and explore the themes, symbols, and language used by Poe to create an atmosphere of fear and suspense.

The Bells

The bells in the poem are the physical bells that are rung to signal a particular event. In the poem, the bells are personified, and each bell is associated with a different emotion or time of life. For example, the first bell, the silver bell, is associated with youth and joy, while the last, the iron bell, is associated with sorrow and death.
The poem begins with the tinkling of the silver bells, which gradually transitions to a clamorous ringing of the golden bells, representing the transition from youth to maturity. The next bell is a loud alarm-like ringing of the brass bells, which marks a transition from middle age to old age. Then there is a slow, muffled sound of the bronze bells that symbolizes sorrow and remembrance. Lastly, the doleful sound of the iron bells reflects the inevitability of death.
Through this poem, Poe attempts to capture life’s beauty and tragedy – from joyous moments to despairing ones. By personifying the various bells, Poe also emphasizes how time passes quickly and how every moment in life is precious.

Poet’s Association to “The Bells”


In Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “The Bells,” the speaker is haunted by bells, with their various tones ringing in his ears and conjuring up various emotions. The bells provide a backdrop to the speaker’s mind throughout the poem. The bells provide a kind of outside force that helps him to reflect on his internal state. As the poem progresses, the bells become more than just a sonic backdrop: they begin to take on greater symbolic significance.
The first set of bells that the speaker hears is the silver bells, which evoke joy and love. They create a festivity and celebration as they ring through the night. Next come to the golden bells, which evoke feelings of prosperity and wealth. Finally, the iron bells arrive with their knell of sorrow and despair. This last set of bells produces a feeling of sadness and finality that profoundly affects the speaker.
The bells, then, act as a kind of soundtrack to the speaker’s changing mood. They mark time and help him to process his emotions. In this way, they represent both the passing of time and the fleeting nature of life. This helps to create a sense of urgency in the poem, as the speaker’s emotions become increasingly heightened with each passing bell.

Symbolic Significance of The Bells


In his poem “The Bells,” Edgar Allan Poe uses the sound of bells to represent the passage of time and its associated emotions. The poem is split into four sections, each featuring a different type of bell: sleigh bells, wedding bells, alarm bells, and death knells.
Sleigh bells are associated with winter and youth, evoking feelings of joy and innocence. Wedding bells signify love, celebration, and joy. Alarm bells reflect turmoil and urgency. Lastly, death knells evoke sadness and mortality.
Throughout the poem, Poe uses the sound of bells to convey the speaker’s emotional journey through life. The jingling of the sleigh bells reflects the joy of childhood. The jubilant sound of the wedding bells brings hope for a bright future. As the poem progresses, the sound of the bells becomes increasingly urgent and panicked, culminating in the sound of death knells representing the speaker’s eventual mortality.
In this way, Poe uses the sound of bells to convey an emotional journey through life – from youth to old age – and the inevitability of death. By using this powerful metaphor, Poe emphasizes how precious time is and how important it is to make the most of our lives.

Poetic Elements Used in “The Bells”

In “The Bells,” Edgar Allan Poe employs various poetic techniques, including repetition, alliteration, and personification. Repetition, exemplified by phrases like “Keeping time, time, time” and “As he knells, knells, knells,” helps to create the musical rhythm and melody that unifies the poem and echoes the sounds of the bells. Additionally, the repetition of the word “bells” at the end of each stanza serves as a refrain. Alliteration, the use of words that begin with the same sound near, can be seen in lines like “happiness” and “harmony” in the second part and “frantic fire” in the third part. Personification, the attribution of human characteristics to non-human beings or objects, is evident in the description of the bells experiencing horror as the poem progresses.

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