'Shadow- A Parable' by Edgar Allen Poe

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Yea, though I walk through the valley of the Shadow:
Psalm of David.

YE who read are still among the living; but I who write shall have long since gone my way into the region of shadows. For indeed strange things shall happen, and secret things be known, and many centuries shall pass away, ere these memorials be seen of men. And, when seen, there will be some to disbelieve, and some to doubt, and yet a few who will find much to ponder upon in the characters here graven with a stylus of iron.
The year had been a year of terror, and of feelings more intense than terror for which there is no name upon the earth. For many prodigies and signs had taken place, and far and wide, over sea and land, the black wings of the Pestilence were spread abroad. To those, nevertheless, cunning in the stars, it was not unknown that the heavens wore an aspect of ill; and to me, the Greek Oinos, among others, it was evident that now had arrived the alternation of that seven hundred and ninety-fourth year when, at the entrance of Aries, the planet Jupiter is conjoined with the red ring of the terrible Saturnus. The peculiar spirit of the skies, if I mistake not greatly, made itself manifest, not only in the physical orb of the earth, but in the souls, imaginations, and meditations of mankind.
Over some flasks of the red Chian wine, within the walls of a noble hall, in a dim city called Ptolemais, we sat, at night, a company of seven. And to our chamber there was no entrance save by a lofty door of brass: and the door was fashioned by the artisan Corinnos, and, being of rare workmanship, was fastened from within. Black draperies, likewise, in the gloomy room, shut out from our view the moon, the lurid stars, and the peopleless streets- but the boding and the memory of Evil they would not be so excluded. There were things around us and about of which I can render no distinct account- things material and spiritual- heaviness in the atmosphere- a sense of suffocation- anxiety- and, above all, that terrible state of existence which the nervous experience when the senses are keenly living and awake, and meanwhile the powers of thought lie dormant. A dead weight hung upon us. It hung upon our limbs- upon the household furniture- upon the goblets from which we drank; and all things were depressed, and borne down thereby- all things save only the flames of the seven lamps which illumined our revel. Uprearing themselves in tall slender lines of light, they thus remained burning all pallid and motionless; and in the mirror which their lustre formed upon the round table of ebony at which we sat, each of us there assembled beheld the pallor of his own countenance, and the unquiet glare in the downcast eyes of his companions. Yet we laughed and were merry in our proper way- which was hysterical; and sang the songs of Anacreon- which are madness; and drank deeply- although the purple wine reminded us of blood. For there was yet another tenant of our chamber in the person of young Zoilus. Dead, and at full length he lay, enshrouded; the genius and the demon of the scene. Alas! he bore no portion in our mirth, save that his countenance, distorted with the plague, and his eyes, in which Death had but half extinguished the fire of the pestilence, seemed to take such interest in our merriment as the dead may haply take in the merriment of those who are to die. But although I, Oinos, felt that the eyes of the departed were upon me, still I forced myself not to perceive the bitterness of their expression, and gazing down steadily into the depths of the ebony mirror, sang with a loud and sonorous voice the songs of the son of Teios. But gradually my songs they ceased, and their echoes, rolling afar off among the sable draperies of the chamber, became weak, and undistinguishable, and so faded away. And lo! from among those sable draperies where the sounds of the song departed, there came forth a dark and undefined shadow- a shadow such as the moon, when low in heaven, might fashion from the figure of a man: but it was the shadow neither of man nor of God, nor of any familiar thing. And quivering awhile among the draperies of the room, it at length rested in full view upon the surface of the door of brass. But the shadow was vague, and formless, and indefinite, and was the shadow neither of man nor of God- neither God of Greece, nor God of Chaldaea, nor any Egyptian God. And the shadow rested upon the brazen doorway, and under the arch of the entablature of the door, and moved not, nor spoke any word, but there became stationary and remained. And the door whereupon the shadow rested was, if I remember aright, over against the feet of the young Zoilus enshrouded. But we, the seven there assembled, having seen the shadow as it came out from among the draperies, dared not steadily behold it, but cast down our eyes, and gazed continually into the depths of the mirror of ebony. And at length I, Oinos, speaking some low words, demanded of the shadow its dwelling and its appellation. And the shadow answered, "I am SHADOW, and my dwelling is near to the Catacombs of Ptolemais, and hard by those dim plains of Helusion which border upon the foul Charonian canal." And then did we, the seven, start from our seats in horror, and stand trembling, and shuddering, and aghast, for the tones in the voice of the shadow were not the tones of any one being, but of a multitude of beings, and, varying in their cadences from syllable to syllable fell duskly upon our ears in the well-remembered and familiar accents of many thousand departed friends.

Editor 1 Interpretation

"Shadow- A Parable" by Edgar Allan Poe: A Literary Masterpiece

Are you ready to delve into the dark and mysterious world of Edgar Allan Poe's "Shadow- A Parable"? This classic prose work is a haunting tale that explores the human psyche and the thin line between reality and illusion. It is a masterful piece of literature that has captured the imaginations of readers for generations. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will explore the themes, symbolism, structure, and language of "Shadow- A Parable" to better understand its enduring appeal.


"Shadow- A Parable" tells the story of a man who is haunted by a shadow that seems to have a life of its own. The shadow follows him wherever he goes, growing larger and more menacing as time goes on. The man becomes obsessed with the shadow and begins to fear for his life. He tries to escape it by moving to a new city and even seeks the help of a doctor, but nothing seems to work. In the end, the man realizes that the shadow is a reflection of his own dark thoughts and desires. He embraces the shadow and accepts it as a part of himself, bringing an end to his torment.


One of the central themes of "Shadow- A Parable" is the duality of human nature. The shadow represents the dark side of the man's personality, the part of him that he tries to repress or deny. This theme is common in Poe's works, as he often explored the darker aspects of the human psyche. Another theme is the idea that we create our own demons. The man's obsession with the shadow is ultimately what makes it so terrifying. By confronting and accepting it, he is able to free himself from his fear.


The shadow is the most obvious symbol in the story, representing the man's repressed desires and fears. The fact that it follows him wherever he goes suggests that he can never escape his own nature. The shadow's growing size and menace reflects the man's growing fear and anxiety. The fact that it disappears when he embraces it suggests that he has come to terms with his own inner demons.

The city is also a symbol in the story, representing the man's attempt to escape his own nature. However, he finds that the city is just as corrupt and dark as he is. The doctor is another symbol, representing the man's attempt to find a rational explanation for his fear. However, the doctor is unable to help him, suggesting that some things cannot be explained by reason alone.


The structure of "Shadow- A Parable" is simple but effective. It is divided into three parts, each of which represents a different stage in the man's journey. The first part establishes the man's fear of the shadow and his attempts to escape it. The second part introduces the doctor and his attempts to help the man. The third part brings resolution to the story, as the man confronts and accepts his shadow.


Poe's use of language in "Shadow- A Parable" is masterful. His descriptions of the shadow are vivid and unsettling, creating a sense of dread and unease. His use of repetition, such as the repeated mention of the shadow's "unearthly hue," adds to the story's sense of foreboding. The dialogue between the man and the doctor is also well-crafted, creating a sense of tension and unease.


"Shadow- A Parable" can be interpreted in many different ways, depending on the reader's perspective. Some readers may see the story as a warning against the dangers of repression and denial. Others may see it as a commentary on the corrupt nature of society. Still others may see it as a story about the power of the human mind to create its own reality.

One possible interpretation is that the shadow represents the man's repressed sexuality. The fact that it grows larger and more menacing as time goes on suggests that his desires are becoming harder to deny. His attempts to escape the shadow by moving to a new city and seeking the help of a doctor represent his attempts to suppress his desires. However, in the end, he is forced to confront his shadow and accept it as a part of himself.

Another interpretation is that the shadow represents the man's fear of death. The fact that it follows him wherever he goes suggests that he can never escape the inevitability of death. His attempts to escape the shadow by moving to a new city and seeking the help of a doctor represent his attempts to cheat death. However, in the end, he is forced to confront his fear and accept the reality of his own mortality.


"Shadow- A Parable" is a haunting and thought-provoking work of literature that has stood the test of time. Its themes of duality, repression, and the power of the human mind are as relevant today as they were when Poe first wrote the story. Through its vivid symbolism, effective structure, and masterful use of language, "Shadow- A Parable" is a literary masterpiece that continues to captivate and inspire readers to this day.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

The classic prose "Shadow- A Parable" written by Edgar Allen Poe is a masterpiece that has stood the test of time. It is a short story that is both eerie and thought-provoking. The story is a parable that explores the concept of duality and the human psyche. In this analysis, we will delve into the story's themes, symbolism, and literary devices used by Poe to create a haunting and unforgettable tale.

The story begins with the narrator describing his childhood fear of shadows. He recounts how he would often be afraid of his own shadow and how it would follow him everywhere he went. The narrator then introduces us to a man named Cornelius Wyatt, who is also afraid of his shadow. Wyatt is a wealthy man who has everything he could ever want, but he is plagued by his fear of his shadow. He believes that his shadow is a separate entity that is trying to harm him.

The narrator then tells us about a conversation he had with Wyatt, where Wyatt reveals that he has found a way to rid himself of his shadow. He has discovered a substance that can separate a person from their shadow. Wyatt then proceeds to demonstrate this by taking the substance and stepping into a room where his shadow is cast on the wall. As he steps into the room, his shadow disappears, and Wyatt is left standing alone.

The narrator is amazed by this and asks Wyatt what he plans to do now that he has rid himself of his shadow. Wyatt replies that he plans to live a life free from fear and that he will no longer be held back by his shadow. However, as time passes, Wyatt begins to change. He becomes more selfish and cruel, and his once kind and generous nature disappears. The narrator realizes that Wyatt's shadow was not just a part of him but was an essential part of his humanity.

The story's themes are centered around the concept of duality and the human psyche. The shadow represents the darker aspects of our nature, the parts of ourselves that we try to hide or suppress. The story suggests that these darker aspects of ourselves are not something to be feared or eliminated but are an essential part of our humanity. The story also explores the idea that when we try to suppress or eliminate these darker aspects of ourselves, we risk losing our humanity and becoming something less than human.

Poe uses several literary devices to create a haunting and unforgettable tale. One of the most prominent literary devices used in the story is symbolism. The shadow represents the darker aspects of our nature, while Wyatt represents the human psyche. The substance that Wyatt uses to separate himself from his shadow represents the desire to eliminate the darker aspects of ourselves. The disappearance of Wyatt's shadow represents the loss of his humanity.

Another literary device used in the story is foreshadowing. The narrator's childhood fear of shadows foreshadows the events that will unfold in the story. The fact that Wyatt is also afraid of his shadow foreshadows his desire to eliminate it. The narrator's realization that Wyatt's shadow was an essential part of his humanity foreshadows the story's conclusion.

The story's structure is also significant. The story is divided into two parts, with the first part focusing on the narrator's childhood fear of shadows and the second part focusing on Wyatt's fear of his shadow. This structure creates a sense of symmetry and balance in the story, emphasizing the theme of duality.

In conclusion, "Shadow- A Parable" is a haunting and thought-provoking tale that explores the concept of duality and the human psyche. Poe uses symbolism, foreshadowing, and structure to create a story that is both eerie and unforgettable. The story suggests that the darker aspects of ourselves are an essential part of our humanity and that when we try to eliminate them, we risk losing our humanity. "Shadow- A Parable" is a classic tale that continues to resonate with readers today and is a testament to Poe's skill as a writer.

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