A Literary Analysis of "The Bells" by Edgar Allan Poe

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Comments and Observations

A literary analysis of “The Bells” by Edgar Allan Poe demonstrates the mastery of sound devices and creates a sensory extravaganza. Let us, therefore, begin our journey with examples of onomatopoeia, internal rhyme, alliteration, assonance, and consonance.

Onomatopoeia: “tinkle, tinkle, tinkle” (4), “tintinnabulation (11), “jingling and the tinkling” (14), “How they ring out their delight” (19), “To the swinging and the ringing” (31), “shriek, shriek” (42), “By the twanging / and the clanging” (58-59), “In the jangling / and the wrangling” (62-63), “the clamor and the clangor” (69)

Alliteration: “Runic rhyme,” “sounding cells” (II, 11), “What a tale of terror, now, their turbulence tells (III, 3), “frantic fire” (III, 10), “desperate desire” (III, 12), “now to sit or never” (III, 14), “What a tale their terror tells” (III, 16), “clang and clash” (18), “melancholy menace” (IV, 6), “muffled monotone” (IV, 26), “human heart” (IV, 28)

Assonance: “sledges, bells” (I, 1), “merriment their melody foretells” (I, 3), “icy air of night” (I, 5), “crystalline delight” (I, 8), “tintinnabulation” (I, 11), “jingling and the tinkling” (I, 14), “mellow wedding bells” (II, 1), “molten-golden notes” (II, 6), “liquid ditty” (II, 8) “What a gush of euphony voluminously wells” (II, 14), “pale-faced” (III, 15), “silence of the light” (IV, 4), “melancholy menace” (IV, 6), “glory…rolling” (IV, 15),

Repetition: “bells,” “keeping time, time, time / In a sort of rhunic rhyme,” “shriek, shriek,” “higher, higher, higher,” tolling, tolling, tolling,” “swells,” and many more

Rhythm and Meter: More than any other poetic device, it’s the rhythm of “The Bells” that makes it lyrical. Poe, in addition to the aforementioned sound devices, uses internal rhyme, line length, varied meter, and punctuation to create an imitative bell rhythm. It’s nigh impossible to identify a set meter in this poem (for more on meter, take a look at the meter and rhythm study guide).

Tips on Doing Your Own Analysis

I’ve given you plenty of information to write your own Edgar Allan Poe literary analysis of “The Bells.” I’ve listed the exact steps for doing a poem analysis with my analysis of “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost. If you follow these steps, you’ll have your own poem analysis in no time. Consider the following questions as you write it.

  1. Keep in mind as you write your analysis that “The Bells” is a lyric poem, a musical poem that expresses a feeling. What feeling is being expressed?
    • Hint: Poe often wrote about madness.
  2. What are the four different bells of which Poe writes?
  3. Why do you think some stanzas use more alliteration, some more assonance, some more onomatopoeia?
  4. How does Poe use sound devices to imitate the sound of bells?
  5. Why is it I feel like rapping this poem with violent hand gestures?

This post is part of the series: The Edgar Allan Poe Poetry Study Guide

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered how in the world I was going to finish my Edgar Allan Poe poetry assignment, I came across this great study guide.

  1. Summary of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven”
  2. Poe Poetry Analysis: Symbolism in “The Raven”
  3. Analysis of Annabel Lee by Edgar Allan Poe
  4. Literary Analysis of “The Bells” by Edgar Allan Poe
  5. Edgar Allan Poe Poems: An Analysis of Eldorado