Besides a good warning to obey your eye doctor, Poe seems to be addressing the concept of "love at first sight" - in fact, the first line of the story points out that "it was the fashion to ridicule the idea." Yet, the story is presented to "add another to the already almost innumerable instances of the truth of the position" that love at first sight does exist. The irony is that the narrator does not have a "first sight" of the woman he falls in love with, due to his lack of spectacles.Additionally, the story is based around vanity. The narrator changes his name, with "much repugnance," from Froissart to Simpson, "a rather usual and plebeian" name in order to collect inheritance. His original patronym, he says, elicited in him "a very pardonable pride." This same pride kept him from wearing spectacles. Madame Lalande admits that she was teaching him a lesson.
The narrator, 22-year old Napoleon Buonaparte, changes his last name from "Froissart" to "Simpson" as a requirement to inherit a large sum from a distant cousin, Adolphus Simpson. At the opera he sees a beautiful woman in the audience and falls in love instantly.When he puts on the spectacles, he sees that she is a toothless old woman. He expresses horror at her appearance, and even more so when he learns she is 82 years old. She begins a rant about a very foolish descendant of hers, one Napoleon Bonaparte Froissart. He realizes that she is his great-great-grandmother.
I would have removed my position to one nearer her own, but the crowded state of the theatre rendered this impossible; and the stern decrees of Fashion had, of late, imperatively prohibited the use of the opera-glass in a case such as this, even had I been so fortunate as to have one with me—but I had not—and was thus in despair.
I now felt a burning sense of the impropriety I had committed, and expected nothing less than instant exposure; while a vision of pistols upon the morrow floated rapidly and uncomfortably through my brain.
From the Inside Flap:
Poe's best-loved tales are destined to capture the imagination of a generation new to the master of terror, as well as delight longtime admirers of Poe, who will find much to relish in this haunting interpretation."