28 pages 56 minutes read

Edgar Allan Poe


Fiction | Short Story | Adult | Published in 1835

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Story Analysis

Analysis: “Berenice”

The beginning of the story establishes the question of whether good can become the cause for evil, which Poe develops by depicting the narrator’s decline into obsessive behavior. Both the affection that Egæus feels for his fiancée and the beauty of her perfect teeth would typically be depicted as positive aspects of the text. However, both elements provoke horror and grief due to the features of Berenice’s physical disease and Egæus’s mental health condition. Egæus defines his obsession as debilitating, demonstrating that his ability to focus on a single object for a long period of time is not beneficial to him as a scholar, nor is it an enjoyable daydream. Too much attention on any single feature of the world, this suggests, can turn even beauty into something revolting.

The narrator’s fixated attention to Berenice objectifies her body, revealing that Egæus’s attraction to her is an unhealthy fascination, not a genuine romance. When Berenice falls ill, her epileptic trances transform her into an inanimate object; she becomes so indistinguishable from a corpse that she is accidentally buried alive. This inanimate quality seems to particularly interest Egæus, who never loved her when she was an active and beautiful woman.