What Was “Alone” by Edgar Allan Poe About?

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The poem “Alone” by Edgar Allan Poe presents the thoughts of an adult reflecting on his difficult childhood. The narrator says that his stormy temperament comes from spending most of his childhood years alone. Because he did not have anyone with which to share his emotions, the narrator did not develop emotionally as a typical child would. Many scholars interpret the poem as an autobiographical introspective on Poe’s youth.

Poe wrote “Alone” when he was 20 years old in the autograph album of a Baltimore woman, Lucy Holmes, later known as Lucy Holmes Balderston. The poem was not published, however, until after his death at the age of 40. “Alone” is now considered to be one of his most revealing works. The lyric poem is written in the first person. It has 22 lines with 11 rhyming couplets. “Alone” starts in iambic tetrameter, then switches to trochaic tetrameter after line 12. Two of the lines are catalectic, meaning they have a final, incomplete foot. Poe uses the stylistic devices of anaphora, alliteration and metaphor within the poem, which is somber in tone and conveys feelings of darkness and melancholy. Thematically, the poem relates the idea that a childhood spent alone leads to a tormented adulthood.