The Raven Literary Analysis Essay
Though I had difficulty getting books from the library, I did find one unexpected source. I discovered a neighbor with a library. After hours of reading and discussions have come to the conclusion that of all the poems I have discovered while researching this essay, I was particularly struck by “The Raven” written by Edgar Allan Poe. It is a poem that will stay with me. I will try to give you my thoughts and feelings on this poem in the following essay.
I will explain my feelings verse by verse through the whole poem.
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“Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore –
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
” ‘T is some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door –
Only this and nothing more.”
The first verse is a man remembering the past, remembering how weak and weary he felt. He remembers himself almost falling asleep next to the fire and a good book, and as he is just about asleep he hears a tapping at the door, which he considers is a visitor that he wants to ignore. You can almost feel how tired he is and how he does not want to get up and answer the door.
“Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December;
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow; – vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books the surcease of sorrow – sorrow for the lost Lenore –
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore –
Nameless here for evermore.”
In this verse, he remembers how bleak a day it was, which adds to the weary feeling of the whole poem. He was reading to take away the sorrow of his lost love Lenore from his mind, he wishes that the morning would come which says to me that she fills his thoughts in the evening.
“And the silken, sad, uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me – filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
” ‘T is some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door –
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door; –
That it is and nothing more.”
He becomes afraid of the rapping at the door, and although he is not getting he suddenly feels terrified, And he keeps repeating to himself, It is just a visitor, like a child reassure itself that there are no monsters under my bed. But still he does not answer the door.
”Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
” Sir,” said I ” or Madame, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, Tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you” – Here I opened wide the door; –
Darkness there and nothing more.”
In this verse he is feeling braver and is going to open the door. He starts talking before he gets to the door, and when he flings it open there is nothing but darkness awaiting him.
“Deep into the darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,
And the only work there spoken was the whispered word, “Lenore!”
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word “Lenore!”
Merely this and nothing more!”
He stands there on this cold evening looking into the darkness, looking for his unseen visitor, hoping that it is Lenore, Then he whispers her name and hears only the lonely echo of her name coming back to him. We can assume that he realised that no one was there for in the next verse he returns to his chambers.
“Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
“Surely,” said I, “surely that is something at my window lattice;
Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore –
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore; –
‘T is the wind and nothing more.”
He turns back into his chambers with his soul burning. Was his soul burning with fear, love, or maybe even confusion after being awakened from his sleep. He then hears another tapping only this time it is at his window, his heart is pounding and he is trying to reassure himself again.
“Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In here stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore.
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mein of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door –
perched above a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door –
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.”
In this verse he opens the window and in walked a Raven, who just came in and sat upon the highly decorated door. In these times the doors were highly decorated with either a crest or sculpture, in this case it was the bust of Pallas. It seemed that the bird had a purpose for being there.
“Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and ster decorum and countenance it wore,
“Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,” I said, “art sure no craven,
Ghastly grim and ancient Raven wandering from the Nightly shore –
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Nights Plutonian shore!”
Quoth the Raven, ” Nevermore.”
This Raven enters and without a second thought the man says that he knows it is nat a coward and that it is ancient beyond years. He also asks what its name is and says that it came from the underworld. The bird replies Nevermore.
“Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning – little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door –
Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
With such a name as Nevermore.”
He is surprised to hear the bird speak and he thinks that no living human has ever had a bird just sit there and talk to him, and with such a name as Nevermore. This might be the point where he realises that he is dying.
” But the Raven, sitting lonely on that placid bust, spoke only
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing farther then he uttered – not a feather then he fluttered –
Till I scarcely more than muttered “Other friends have flown
Before – On the morrow, he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before.”
Then the bird said Nevermore.”
He is now starting a conversation with the bird which only answers Nevermore, which allows his mind to work over time. The Raven is just sitting there starring down at him which must add to his depression and fear. He is saying to the bird that his hopes and friends have died before him and the bird answers nevermore. At this point he realises that he is going to die
“Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
“Doubtless,” said I, “what it utters is only stock and store
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore –
Till the dirges of his hope that melancholy burden bore
Of ‘Never – nevermore.”
Now that his mind is working and he figures out what is going on, he is startled by the birds response so he starts talking to himself, thinking that it probably was caught by an unhappy master that only taught it that word, so it must be the only work it knows or why would it answer all his questions like that.
“But the Raven still beguiling all my fancy into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of the bird, and bust and door;
Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore –
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt and this ominous bird of yore
Meant in croaking nevermore.”
He pulls up a chair while the bird is still unmoving, he sits and looks at the bird and starts to ponder the meaning of the birds reply. He starts to call the bird terrible names to soothe his inner sorrow.
” This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosoms core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushions velvet lining that the lamp-light gloated o’er,
But whose velvet violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o’er,
She shall press, ah, nevermore!”
He is sitting with his head back, quite comfortably starring at the bird while the bird stares back into his inner being. We also think he is thinking about how she will never sit in this chair again. We are now wondering if Lenore is dead or not, simply because he is saying she will never sit here again, or is it because he is finally accepting her death or maybe even his own death and will never see her again.
” Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.
“Wretch,” I cried, “thy God hath lent thee – by these angels he hath sent thee
Respite – respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore;
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore!”
Quoth the Raven Nevermore!”
The angel Seraphim enters his chamber. Seraphim is from the highest order of angels, and he asks her for respite from his painful memories of Lenore.
“Prophet! Said I, thing of evil! – prophet still, if bird or devil! –
Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted –
On this home by Horror haunted – tell me truly, I implore –
Is there – is there balm in Gilead? – tell me – tell me, I implore!
Quoth the Raven nevermore!”
He is calling the Raven evil, wanting it to leave his chambers. He is fighting his death but wants to know if there is peace in fair Gilead. He is begging the Raven to tell him.
“Prophet! Said I, thing of evil! – prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us – by the God we both adore –
Tell this soul with laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore –
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore.
Quoth the Raven nevermore.”
Now he is asking if it is a bird or devil, just tell me is Lenore in heaven, because if she is I will fight no longer. He begs the bird to tell him if he is going to his fair Lenore. Yet the Raven will only give him the unclear answer nevermore.
“Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend! I shrieked, upstarting –
Get thee back into the tempest and the Nights Plutonian Shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken! – quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!
Quoth the Raven nevermore.”
He is now getting angry and ordering the bird back where it came from. He wants no token of these events, he just wants the bird gone because he cannot accept the birds answer.
“And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted NEVERMORE.”
In this verse the bird has disobeyed him and is just sitting above the door staring at him. His soul is caught under the bird shadow as he passes away and it is lifted up to heaven and his fair Lenore.
In summary of this poem, I get a feeling of a lonely old man who would accept death until he comes face to face with it, where he fights with all his remaining strength to survive.
The poem is of a man drifting off to sleep to be woken possibly from a dream to a faint tapping at his door. He is startled so he obviously gets few if any visitors. He goes to the door and finds nothing but darkness waiting for him. He then returns to his chambers and hears a tapping at his window. He then reassures himself that it is just the wind, but when he opens it a raven who seems to have a purpose enters and flies to the top of his door.
He then begins a conversation with the raven and goes through a wide variety of emotions ranging from humor eg. Believing it is a trained bird, to, fear eg. That it might have come from Hell to get him, too, Anger eg. That he might never see Lenore again, too, Loathing eg. Realizing that he is dying. I think in a way that the raven is a messenger of his death, but he never really accepts it until he is sent or his fate with or without Lenore.
“The Raven” is an exploration into the loneliness, despair, and insanity associated with the loss of a loved one. Through the clever use of structure, repetition and symbolism Edgar Allan Poe manages to draw us into this feeling of morbid despair and with every use of the haunting refrain “nevermore” upon which the chilling cadence of this poem is built Poe transforms a story steeped in sorrow into a tale of supernatural fear and insanity as only he can. Poe uses the very structure of his poem to scream melancholy despair.
The Raven” is written in trochaic octameter. The first and third lines have sixteen syllables each. That makes eight pairs of syllables. The emphasis in these pairs is usually placed on the first syllable. (Once / u / pon / a / mid / night / drea / ry / while / I / pon / dered / weak / and / wea/ ry). It also makes use of internal rhyming,every eight syllables rhyme (Dreary, Weary). In the fourth line, the rhyme from the third line is used to rhyme again in the middle.
Eagerly I wished the morrow; vainly I had sought to borrow From my books surcease of sorrow, sorrow for the lost Lenore. ) The most noticeable rhyme comes at the end of the second, fourth, fifth, and sixth lines in each stanza it’s easy to pick up because it always ends in an “or” sound (lore, door, floor, Lenore, and of course nevermore), meaning two-thirds of the poem ends in the same sound. The meter however is not constant throughout, the last line of each stanza is a lot shorter with only seven syllables and the second, fourth, and fifth lines only have fifteen syllables.
The trick is that in each of the lines ending in an “or” sound, Poe leaves off a syllable. That way the crucial “or” sits out there by itself, unattached to another syllable, making it stand out even more. Through all of these little things, he makes his poem musical hypnotic and captivating drawing you more completely into this world full of despair and insanity. Poe makes use of repetition to slowly transform this piece from a tale of melancholy despair into one of insanity. Our narrator starts out seemingly hopelessly trying to drown his sorrows by any means possible (Eagerly I wished the morrow; vainly I had sought to borrow From my books surcease of sorrow for the lost Lenore).
After the raven comes into the picture announcing for the first time that his name is nevermore our narrator seems almost disbelieving ( “Doubtless,’” said I, “what it utters is its only stock and store, Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful disaster Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden bore Of Never-nevermore. ) But as the poem continues unraveling he keeps asking the raven questions knowing the answer will always be the same as if he knows this will always be the answer but is trying to deny it (“Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn, It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore Clasp a rare and radiant maiden, whom the angels named Lenore? ” Quoth the raven, “Nevermore. ”)
After this goes on for some time his pleas intensifying all the while and the raven repeating nevermore all the while he begins to show signs of madness like a mad scientist on the edge of discovery. Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend! ‘I shrieked upstarting . ) Until finally he seems to just give up and accept his fate (And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor Shall be lifted – nevermore! ) and back to despair, the difference is this time he seems to accept it as a part of himself he knows will never go away. Another literary device that Poe uses throughout his poem to draw us into the feelings he is trying to convey is symbolism. One of the centerpieces of the poem is Lenore.
She is the main focus of our narrator’s obsessive thoughts. He brings her up constantly and yet despite this we don’t actually learn much about her at all. We don’t know the color of her hair or eyes or much besides her name. He never even specifically brings up their relation. She’s an idea a memory but never becomes a full-fledged character even when her presence seems to lurk everywhere in the room in a sense, this Lenore is not anything like a real person because of this I believe her to be a symbol.
In the beginning, we learn that Lenore is dead (Sorrow for the lost Lenore For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels named Lenore Nameless here for evermore. ) Lenore seems to be a symbol of lost love for all the lost things that bring us despair. She is almost purposefully not described in detail thus allowing us to fill her in as our mind will and pulling us even deeper into the atmosphere of sorrow surrounding the poem. Another big symbol used in the poem is of course the namesake of the poem, the raven.
In most stories and in folklore the raven is used to symbolize death. Poe seems to take this idea and expand it and use it to further convince us of the feelings he is trying to convey throughout the poem. In this particular use of the raven as a symbol, he symbolizes not death but comes more in the form of a messenger. Although the fact that he is as black as the night it came out of and adds to the supernatural atmosphere emphasized by the personification of the bird could have been intentional on Poe’s part.
His role as messenger does not escape the narrator who believes first that he is a prophet sent by God (thy God hath lent thee by these angels he has sent thee) but as the raven’s ever-present refrain begins to slowly drive him mad he actually comes to think that he is a demon (And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming, And the lamplight o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor, And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor Shall be lifted – nevermore! ). Whatever Poe meant the raven to really symbolize it just seems to add to the air of supernatural despair and insanity.
Therefore Poe brings us this feeling of morbid despair and insanity through structure, repetition, and symbolism. His use of trochaic octameter gives the poem an almost musical melody that adds to the feelings of despair Poe is trying to convey.
The repetition of the word nevermore almost constantly throughout the poem helps to transition from the despair at the beginning to the insanity in the middle then back around full circle and through the symbolism of Lenore and the raven he wraps all these feelings in one single package quite nicely that he can bring up over and over again.
Few American authors have obtained the level of popularity that Edgar Allen Poe has risen to. This popularity and his trademark macabre writing style have made some of his literary works such as The Raven a long-time classic in literature. This work, in particular, exhibits some characteristics of folklore. Folklore has long been associated with the oral passage, custom-related themes, and unknown authors; however, I believe that there are exceptions to the typical definition and that almost all literary works, old and new, have at least a trace element of folklore contained within them.
The Raven is a poem that, at first glance depicts a man reading a book (about “forgotten lore”) in his bedroom late at night that seems to be on the edge of sanity. After a series of tappings at his bedroom door, he later finds a bird perched above his door. He asks the bird several questions, all of which are answered with, “nevermore.”
After reading the poem carefully it is apparent that the man is mourning over his beloved Lenore. The man believes the raven will end his sorrow, “respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore.” (Nepenthe is a reference from The Odyssey of a drug that prevents grief) In the end, the bird ends up robbing the man of his hope, “And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor shall be lifted? nevermore!”
There are several superstitious references throughout the poem, the first and most obvious is the raven. The raven can also be classified as a myth or legend – the taker of souls and deliverer of death. The raven has long been associated with both evil and death. Why would Poe choose a raven as the messenger of nevermore? I believe the bird was chosen because of its ability to fly and ascend into the heavens and its legendary status as a “soul taker.”
Poe writes, “And the lamp-light o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor; And my soul out of that shadow that lies floating on the floor; Shall be lifted – nevermore.” There is an old superstition that anyone who falls under a raven’s shadow will have his soul taken from him. It is that superstition which Poe uses to doom the man in his bedroom. The man will forever dwell in misery and lost hope.
The raven is not the only mythological reference throughout the poem. Poe makes a reference to Pallas, which is another name for the Greek goddess of warfare Athena. Poe writes, “Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door – Perched, and sat, and nothing more.” The image of the raven perched on the goddess of war fills the mind with images of violence, loss of hope, doom, and insanity, which seems to be part of the theme in the poem.
There is another reference made to a mythological character, Pluto. Pluto, according to legend, is the god of the underworld or Hell. The man believes that the raven “wanders from the Plutonian night’s shore.” This further perpetuates the underling theme of darkness and doom.
Color is a symbolic part of the poem. There are several references made to the color black, which is tied customarily to funeral attire, evil, death, and the over-all fear of the night. There is one particular reference made to a dirge, which implants dark images in the reader?s mind. The black raven, which is part of the evil and dark motif in the poem, robs the man of his soul on a late bleak December night.
Late bleak December is synonymous with frigid cold, pain, depression, and an overall lack of color. This (late bleak December) is a description of the inhospitable climate in which the misery associated with the raven thrives. The use of color is powerful throughout the poem and could lead to a tremendous amount of interpretation.
The Raven incorporates myths, legends, superstitions, and a motif making it one of Poe’s most interesting pieces. The poem is written in a way that leaves the ending up to the interpretation of the reader. Does the man die or does he go insane? My personal interpretation is that the man will dwell in a constant state of the morning for Lenore. Had Poe not incorporated the myths, superstitions, legends, and the symbolic motif of the raven the poem would not have had the same impact. It is those ingredients that give the poem flavor, set the mood, and provide titillating imagery.
Topic: The Raven is about how the author is haunted by his grief about the death of his lover, Lenore.
Theme: The untimely death of a beautiful woman.
Sense: I think that the whole poem is about the death of a beautiful woman. It seems to me that the raven symbolizes the grief he has for his lost love, Lenore. Once he let the raven in it tormented his soul forever. I think the reason why the raven keeps saying nevermore is that he knows that Lenore is never coming back.
The poem is basically that the bird is a sad and never-ending remembrance of his lost love, Lenore. The writer seems to think that he will never forget his lover because she will always live in his mind forever.
Summary: During a cold, dark evening in December, a man is attempting to find some contentment from the remembrance of his lost love, Lenore, by reading volumes of “forgotten lore.” Just as he is about to fall asleep, something knocks at his door. First, he thought that the knock was only a result of his dreaming, then finally he opens the door, but there is no one there.
He looks out the door scared and curious, when he goes to speak he can only say the word “Lenore.” When he closes the door, another knock is immediately heard on the window. He throws open the shutter and window and in steps a large, beautiful raven, which immediately posts itself on the bust of Pallas Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom, above the entrance of the room. He asks its name, and the bird replies “Nevermore.”
Believing “Nevermore” to be the raven’s name, he is curious, but he believes the name isn’t relevant to his question because he has never heard of any man or animal called by that name. Although the bird is peaceful, the narrator mutters to himself that it, like all other blessings of his life, will soon leave him. Again the bird replies “Nevermore.”
Intrigued, he pulls a chair up directly before the bird to more readily direct his attention to the raven, and to figure out the meaning of the bird’s reply. While he thinks in the chair, he starts to think of Lenore. Suddenly overcome with grief, he believes that the raven is from God, who intends to help him get rid of his grief, but again the bird replies “nevermore”.
The speaker then thinks the bird is not what it seems, calling it a “thing of evil,” and asks it whether there is “balm in Gilead,” a biblical reference to land with suffering. Again, the word “nevermore” is the only answer. He demands that the bird leaves, he attempts to send the bird back to the “Plutonian shore” of Hell from where it came. The bird, replies again “nevermore,” and sits there on the bust of Pallas to this day, to torment the speaker’s soul forever, about his lost love.
Intention: The poem was probably written because the poet has actually gone through similar experiences. Maybe Poe was writing about his wife Virginia that died. Tone: The poet is very sad about the loss of his lover, Lenore, the poet wants to forget about her but he can’t because he loved her so deeply.Structure: The poem is a metaphor poem.
The raven is being compared to the grief of his lost lover, Lenore. The poet is giving you an image of a man sitting in his house being tormented by the raven that symbolizes the grief of his lost love, Lenore. As much as the poet wants to forget about the lost lover he can’t because he loved her so deeply. When Poe was constructing this poem he made it so it had a very distinct rhyming structure.
He breaks the poem into sections sort of like ever section is its own individual poem. In the middle of the first line where you would normally end it, he has a word that rhymes with the last word of that line. Then he breaks his pattern by adding a new line that the last word rhymes with, two lines later. The third line corresponds with the first.
However, the last section was quite different from the rest. The fifth line doesn’t rhyme but continues into the sixth line that rhymes with the second and fourth.
“The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe is about a lonely man who tries to ease his “sorrow for the lost Lenore” by distracting his mind with old books. The narrator is then interrupted by a tapping on his chamber door, which he hopes will be his lost love, Lenore. He opens the door to finds nothing but darkness and whispers her name hoping that she will return. Disappointed he returns to his chambers just as he hears another tapping at the window lattice. He flings open the shutters to find nothing but a raven, the bird of ill omen.
The bird perches himself on the bust of Pallas, the goddess of wisdom, and repeats “Nevermore.” The narrator continues the conversation with the raven even though he can only utter one thing. Poe shows the extreme loneliness of the narrator through the symbols of the raven, his chamber, and the time in which it took place.
The raven itself is one of the most obvious symbols in the poem. This bird not only symbolizes a sense of darkness and evil, but also a bad omen. This is important to the poem because it helps to develop the melancholy tone that stresses how lonely the narrator is. The raven is also a strong symbol because it stands for non-reasoning. It would make little sense to use a human in this position, because a human can reason to answer questions, unlike the bird.
Even though the narrator knows what the raven’s response will be, he continues to ask questions that eat him up inside. This adds even more to the dreary ambiance that the raven brings about and shows how the narrator really wants to talk to someone.
The chamber in which the narrator is positioned is used to symbolize his loneliness and the sorrow he feels for the loss of his Lenore. The room is richly furnished and reminds him of the pleasant times they once shared there. He has the shutters closed because he has drawn himself into complete seclusion to avoid the reality of the outside world.
The chamber is also extremely calm in comparison to the blustery outside. The sharp comparison of these two worlds shows how much he has tried to hide the truth about his loss. Even though the narrator is isolated, there is a chance of a new beginning right around the corner.
The uses of “midnight” in the first verse and “December” in the second symbolize an end and also an anticipation of a new beginning. The fresh start could be in a few seconds, or a few days, but in any case, it is extremely close.
This poem could even take place on New Year’s Eve, a date strongly connected with change. The narrator is still strongly mourning his lost love, but since it is near the end he will hopefully have a new beginning. By using these “ending words” Poe shows that the narrator’s condition will optimistically be over soon and he will be able to face the world again.
Poe’s strong use of symbols shows how much the narrator misses Lenore. He is so depressed that he asks the raven questions when he knows that he will only get one response, the one he does not want. The narrator also seems intrigued to talk to another creature which shows how often he has contact with the outside.
Hopefully, a new beginning is coming for him soon and he can overcome his hard loss. It is never easy to lose someone and it is never easy to be alone. The question he should have asked the raven was “Will I ever be lonely again?” To this inquiry, the raven would have replied “Nevermore.”
Creating the Melancholic Tone in “The Raven” Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven,” representing Poe’s own introverted crisis of hell, is unusually moving and attractive to the reader. In his essay entitled “The Philosophy of Composition,” Poe reveals his purpose in writing “The Raven” and also describes the work of composing the poem as being carefully calculated in all aspects. Of all melancholy topics, Poe wished to use the one that was universally understood, death; specifically death involving a beautiful woman.
The apparent tone in Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” seemingly represents a very painful condition of mind, and intellect sensitive to madness and the abyss of melancholy brought upon by the death of a beloved lady. The parallelism of Poe’s own personal problems, with those of the narrator in “The Raven,” his calculated use of symbolism, and the articulation of language through the use of the raven’s refrain, the reader becomes aware of Poe’s prominent tone of melancholy.
A strong device for the melancholic tone in “The Raven” is Poe’s use of the first person. Poe used the first person by virtue of the situations in “The Raven” taking direct influence from Poe’s life experiences. Among many other misfortunes, including living a life of poverty and being orphaned at a young age, Poe’s beloved wife Virginnia, died after a long illness.
The narrator’s sorrow for the lost Lenore is paralleled with Poe’s own grief regarding the death of his wife. Confined in the chamber are memories of her who had frequented it. These ghostly recollections cultivate an enormous motive in the reader to know and are relieved of the bewilderment that plagues the narrator and consequently Poe himself; the narrator ponders whether he will see his wife in the afterlife. After Virginia’s lingering death, Poe tried to relieve his grief by drinking.
Parallelism is formed in “The Raven” between the condescending actions of the raven towards the narrator and the taunting of alcohol towards Poe. The raven condescends that Poe will never see his lost love again when uttering “forget this lost Lenore” (83).
Alcohol taunts Poe into ceaseless depression and caused Poe to have a life-long problem with alcoholism, which eventually led to his death. In a similar manner to which the alcohol explored Poe’s inner devastation, the raven delves into an exploration of the narrator’s innermost fears that he will never see his Lenore again. Lenore, a source for conjuring up the imaginative domain in the persona, is a compulsion that excites the narrator’s mind into mundane questioning. In the first stanza, questioning from what direction the “tapping” came, he throws open the door, the narrators’ nemesis not to be found.
Some other realm must be explored if he is to ascertain something about his lost love and the noise which is driving him insane. The narrator then opens the shutter, opening his soul to the outside world. To his surprise, he discovers a raven, a “beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door” (53). The raven directs all further action in the poem, it ridicules and patronizes the narrator throughout the composition and its evil force permeates the air and induces suffering and anguish within the character.
Emotions culminate with the attainment of a climax as the narrator faces his confused and disordered world. The narrator, in his madness, shrieks, “Get thee back into the tempest and the Night’s Plutonian shore!” (98). Poe’s calculated use of symbolism was influential in establishing the literary reputation of “The Raven”. The raven is established as a symbol for the narrator’s mournful and ceaseless remembrance of his lost love. The raven is of significant importance to the melancholic theme because it is often seen as being a harbinger of death. Another obvious symbol is the bust of Pallas, the Goddess of Wisdom.
This use is symbolic as it leads the narrator to believe that the raven speaks from wisdom. When Poe writes, “…distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December…”, he is illustrating a less obvious (7). Both midnight and December symbolize closure, as midnight is the last hour of the day and December is the last month of the year. “Midnight” and “December” also represent the anticipation of something new, a change to happen. Symbolism can also be seen in the examination of the chamber. The chamber in which the narrator is positioned is used to signify the loneliness of the man, and the sorrow he feels from the loss of Lenore.
The room is richly furnished and reminds the narrator of his lost love, which helps to create an effect of beauty in the poem. The tempest outside is used to accentuate the isolation of the man, to show a sharp contrast between the calmness in the chamber and the tempestuous night. The articulation of language through the use of the raven and its refrain is also utilized to produce the melancholic tone in “The Raven.” In the poem it is important that the answers to the questions are already known, to illustrate the self-torture to which the narrator endures.
Repetition of “Nevermore” impedes the speaker’s mindfulness in all actions, and baffles him into a victimized state of mind. The raven’s utterance of language, especially the sole phrase in the refrain is crucial, for the exchange of conversation would not advance without the persona having something to respond to. The poem has a series of consecutive stanzas ending with the line “Quoth the Raven Nevermore”, which serves to establish the unchangeable supremacy of the raven, and founds the melancholic condition of the man.
Articulation of “Nevermore” also emphasizes the features of the word itself, specifically, it’s meaning. Through focusing on the raven and its raspy “Nevermore”, an effect is developed that highlights a gloomy and depressed state of mind. A refrain is used throughout Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven,” to underscore the developing tone of melancholy.
The refrain accomplishes this accentuation through its creation of an awareness of the inevitable; realizing that the raven’s response to any questions posed will be “Nevermore,” the character inquires about his lost love, the “rare and radiant maiden whom the angel’s name Lenore,” perhaps purposefully to experience further torture and anguish (95). Through “The Raven,” Poe makes a personal, introverted hell strangely mesmerizing and tasteful to all.
The Gothic tone of “The Raven,” as explained by Poe in his essay entitled “The Philosophy of Composition,” has greatly influenced my own and presumably other readers’ understanding of literature with regards to probing of the realms of madness and melancholy. Poe’s haunting linguistic descriptions, unnerving parallelism between his life and the poem, and alarming yet purposeful exploration of symbolism and situation, draws the reader into spheres of insanity which at once explores the soul and pleases the reader.
Example #7 – “The Raven” Symbolism
In Poe’s “The Raven” the most obvious symbol is the Raven it’s self. Why would Poe use a non-reasoning creature to recite the refrain of “nevermore?” I believe Poe uses the non-reasoning raven because to us it would make little to no sense, and frustrate us because we’re a reasoning creature that can answer the question. It is also important that the answers to the questions are already known, I think it helps to illustrate the self-torture the narrator exposes himself to.
Another symbol is the Pallas. In the whole room, the raven decides to perch on the Greek Goddess of Wisdom, why? Could he be trying to lead us to believe that the raven speaks from wisdom? Or was Poe just using a word only some could interpret?
Also, why does Poe use midnight and December for the time the story takes place? I figure midnight and December both represent an end to something, and also the anticipation of something new. A new year comes after midnight, also a new day; and December represents the end of a year.
Finally, when I picture the room the narrator is positioned in, I picture him lonely and sorrowful, and the richly furnished room reminds him of his lost love, Lenore. And the tempest (storm) outside shows more of his isolation and is a contrast between the calmness of the chamber and the tempestuous night.
I believe Poe put no moral in ” The Raven”, but his stories were more like puzzles that he wanted people to poke and pry at, and in the end to accomplish nothing. He has accomplished his goals by making many Poe readers go a little insane by trying to figure out the logic of his insane stories.
Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” is a dark reflection on lost love, death, and loss of hope. The poem examines the emotions of a young man who has lost his lover to death and who tries unsuccessfully to distract himself from his sadness through books.
Books, however, prove to be of little help, as his nights become a nightmare and his solitude is shattered by a single visitor, the raven. In this poem, Poe uses symbolism, imagery, and tone, as well as a variety of poetic elements to suggest that the sorrow felt about the loss of a love can lead to insanity.
Within the poem, Poe divides the characters and imagery into two conflicting aspects of light and dark in which darkness overwhelms the light. Almost everything in the poem reflects one world or the other. “For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels named Lenore”. Lenore, who is repeatedly described as “radiant” epitomizes the world of light along with the angels, emphasizes the light. “And the lamp-light o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor”.
The lamplight the character uses to light his chamber brings the element of light in the otherwise dark and shadowy chamber. However, The Raven, as well as the dreary December night shows signs of darkness. “But the raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only That one word as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.”
The raven is the darkest illustration in the poem and essentially it represents all the pain and grief that is slow pushes him to insanity. These images of light and darkness go even further to represent love and grief. The man associates images of light in the poem with his love for Lenore and the dark images are associated with the grief of losing Lenore.
Told from the third person, Poe also uses symbolism to create a strong melancholy tone. For instance, both midnight and December symbolize an end of something and the hope of something new to happen. Another example is the chamber in which the narrator is placed; this is used to show the loneliness of the man.
Along with imagery and symbolism, Poe incorporates many poetic elements to express the character’s feeling of sorrow and grief. These include assonance, alliteration, and rhyme. Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds. For example “For the rare and radiant maiden, whom the angels name Lenore.” This repeats the vowel sound of “a”. Poe also used a lot of alliteration. For example, “Doubting dreaming dreams no mortal ever, dared to dream before”. Observe the repetition of the “d” sound.
Other examples of alliteration can be found inline 64; “Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore” Notice the repetition of the “f” sound at the beginning of the sentence. One last element used in “The Raven” is a rhyme. A good example of this can be found in the first stanza; dreary, weary, tapping, door, door, more. This is an ABC BBB pattern. Each of these sound devices reinforces the meaning by emphasizing important words.
Including many elements such as tone, imagery, and symbolism, Poe provided the reader with a better understanding of what exactly is going on in his poem. Without these elements, the reader may have never fully recognized Poe’s theme of death and sadness; loss, and loneliness.
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