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Final Examination in Lit 2


A Short Story by Edgar Allan Poe

The story follows an unnamed narrator who lives with his cousin and aunt in "The Valley of the Many-Colored Grass," an idyllic paradise full of fragrant flowers, fantastic trees, and a "River of Silence." It remains untrodden by the footsteps of strangers and so they live isolated but happy. After living like this for fifteen years, "Love entered" the hearts of the narrator and his cousin Eleonora. The valley reflected the beauty of their young love. Eleonora, however, was sick - "made perfect in loveliness only to die." She does not fear death, but fears that the narrator will leave the valley after her death and transfer his love to someone else. The narrator emotionally vows to her, with "the Mighty Ruler of the Universe" as his witness, to never bind himself in marriage "to any daughter on Earth." After Eleonora's death, however, the Valley of the Many-Colored Grass begins to lose its lustre and warmth. The narrator chooses to leave to an unnamed "strange city." There, he meets a woman named Ermengarde and, without guilt, marries her. Eleonora soon visits the narrator from beyond the grave and grants her blessings to the couple. "Thou art absolved," she says, "for reasons which shall be made known to thee in Heaven."

Many biographers consider "Eleonora" an autobiographical story written for Poe to alleviate his own feelings of guilt for considering other women for love. At the time of the publication of this very short tale, his wife Virginia had just begun to show signs of illness, though she would not die for another five years. The narrator, then, is Poe himself, living with his young cousin soon-to-be wife and his aunt. The abrupt ending, with the narrator's new love only named in the third to last paragraph, is somewhat unconvincing if this is Poe's attempt at justifying his own feelings. Poe considered the tale "not ended so well as it might be." Perhaps, it is in the...