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Poe, Edgar Allen. "Shadow—A Parable".


Motto: "Yea! though I walk through the valley of the Shadow." Psalm of David.

The first person narrator tells the reader that when he is first acquainted with the writing, its author will be long dead.

The year when the story is set is described as the year of terror. There is a deathly aspect about the year which is also characterized by a certain position of the planets: Jupiter is conjoined with the red ring of the terrible Saturn. There are also many ill prodigies and signs of the plague. It is a year of pestilence.

The Greek narrator, Oinos (which is Greek for "wine"), and six others gather to create seven. They retire to a room with heavy curtains and a massive door. They are merry, but in a hysterical way. They drink red wine, but it reminds them of blood. They sing the songs of Anacreon, but a dead weight hangs upon them. There is a young dead man with them, Zoilus.

Suddenly a shadow appears, neither man, nor God, and places itself against the feet of Zoilus. None of the seven dares to look at the shadow steadily and instead they gaze into the depths of the mirror of ebony. The narrator asks the shadow where it comes from. It answers: "I am a SHADOW..." and says it comes from the catacombs of Ptolemais, the city of the seven. The seven shudder as they hear not only one voice, but a multitude of voices in which they recognize familiar accents of many thousands departed friends.


- a brief but condensed short story

- written in a marked biblical language

- theme: the impossibility of escape from death

- recurrent motifs: the seven, the mirror of ebony, the draperies


  • Author

    Poe, Edgar Allen. (1809 - 1849).
  • Full Title

    "Shadow—A Parable".
  • First Published

  • Form

    Short story.

Works Cited

Poe, Edgar Allen. "Shadow—A Parable". (1835). In: The Chief American Prose Writers: Selected Prose. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1916.


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