28 pages 56 minutes read

Edgar Allan Poe


Fiction | Short Story | Adult | Published in 1835

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Literary Devices


Allusions to mythology and literature help establish Egæus as an intellectual character and contrast with the story’s dark, sordid subject matter. In the 19th century, most educational curricula prioritized canonical works by Greek and Roman authors, and many poets used references to these works to increase the prestige of their own art. To convey Berenice’s initial beauty when she is roaming the hills around the estate, the narrator calls her a “Sylph” and a “Naiad” referencing magical spirits of air and water. Comparing her to these mythical creatures also makes her transformation into a “diseased,” “corpselike” being more shocking and abrupt. Egæus uses another allusion as the source for a metaphor that explains his own declining mental health:

My reason bore resemblance to that ocean-crag spoken of by Ptolemy Hephestion, which steadily resisting the attacks of human violence, and the fiercer fury of the waters and the winds, trembled only to the touch of the flower called Asphodel (334).

This allusion invokes the asphodel flower, which Greek mythology said grew in the underworld. Therefore, Egæus subtly implies that his morbid fascination with death will be the thing that finally destroys his capacity for reason.