“The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe

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 Introduction

“The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe is a masterpiece. It was first published in 1845 in The New York’s The Evening Mirror. The poem primarily describes the sorrow of the poet, who is traumatized by the death of his lover. The poem’s central theme revolves around the grief, loneliness, and misery of a person who is victimized by the uncertainty of life.

“The Raven” is a melancholic poem in which the speaker narrates his experiences. He explains how the loss of one person has changed his entire world, how he cannot lead an everyday life, and how his boundless love for Lenore has left him tormented for the rest of his stay in this world.

The poet, through his words, leaves the readers mesmerized while he explains his endless love for Lenore. The narrator tries to distract himself; from the plentiful thoughts surrounding his mind; by reading, but all in vain. He becomes anxious due to the tapping on his door. After gathering enough courage, he decides to pay heed to the visitor. However, a little conversation with the visitor further leaves him grief-stricken.

Major themes in “The Raven”

  • Death
  • Loss
  • Rationality
  • Irrationality

“The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe engages themes that include death, loss, rationality, and irrationality. The poem throws light upon the impact of a person’s death on people’s lives that remain behind. When a person leaves this world, he takes a part of those left behind; and leaves a part of himself within th

em. In his course of thought, the poet believes that whatever happens is for good, and so was the death of his beloved. On the other hand, his utmost desire to reunite with the love of his life creates an undesirable urge to ask irrational questions from the Raven. His paranoid behavior leaves him in a condition where he asks a raven about his lover and is left aggrieved by his replies.

Analysis of devices in “The Raven”

  • The literary devices in this poem are:
    • Metaphor
    • Personification
    • Simile
    • Imagery
    • Alliteration
    • Assonance
    • Caesura

“The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe encompasses a number of literary devices. The poet’s selection of words undoubtedly creates a vivid image in readers’ minds. His words allow the readers to feel the presence of love and what he goes through after the loss of his loved one.

The poem exhibits metaphor and compares the raven’s eyes with “fire” and “the eyes of a demon” in the verses “To the fowl those fiery eyes now burned into my bosom’s core” and “To the fowl those fiery eyes now burned into my bosom’s core” respectively.

The writer has used personification in the poem. He personifies the raven as a human who could speak; as the verse states: “Quoth the Raven Nevermore.” He attributes a human ability of speaking to a bird, the raven.

In the verse “Suddenly there comes a tapping, as of someone gently rapping” the poet draws a comparison to let readers visualize his words.

Imagery is used to make the readers perceive things with their five senses. The speaker has used various phrases of imagery so that the reader can sense his words and feel his loneliness, grief, and despair. Phrases like “the silken”,” sad”,” uncertain”, “rustling of each curtain thrilled me” are some of the examples.

Poetic Devices

The repetition of consonant sounds such as /s/ in “from my books surcease the last sorrow- sorrow for the lost Lenore” as well as /w/ and /n/ sounds in “Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary” clearly indicate the use of alliteration and create a rhythmic effect in the poem.

Similarly, assonance is used as vowel sounds of /e/ in “dreary, weak and weary” and that of /a/ in “dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before” are repeated.

Caesura is a literary device by the use of which poet creates a break or pause in a verse. In the verses “Eagerly I wished the morrow; —vainly I had sought to borrow” and “While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping” the poet creates a break through punctuation.

In-depth Analysis of “The Raven”

Stanza#1

The opening stanza of “The Raven” states the poet’s feelings of loneliness when he lies in a dark night feeling feeble and gloomy. He is evidently lost in a cloud of thoughts when all of a sudden, he hears a knock on his door. He murmurs to himself, maybe there is a visitor as what else could it possibly be. These lines paint a picture of a shadowy night which creates suspense in the readers’ minds as to what is the reason behind the speaker’s despair.

Stanza#2

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The second stanza of the poem quickly takes a turn of events and carries the reader to his thoughts. He wishes that this dark night of December passes quick, as he desperately tries to escape the sadness of losing Lenore by busying himself in reading. These lines indicate the speaker’s anxiety over losing a loved one who was very dear to him. He also shifts his attention towards these thoughts as he avoids answering the door and prefers loneliness.

Stanza#3

This stanza of the poem indicates the poet’s fear as to who may have come to visit him. It seems as if there is some hope within his heart that his beloved was there to meet him; although he clearly knows that this is not possible. As the speaker provides little details of his surroundings, he observably symbolizes his feelings. The wounds on his heart are healing, but he still feels uncertain about the death of his loved one. He feels fearful, but at the very end of this stanzas he tries to calm himself down by repeating that he’s sure nothing will come out of it.

Stanza#4

This stanza of the poem highlights how he musters up confidence to answer the door and to see who could visit him at such an hour. As he prepares himself and pulls himself out of his insecurities, he finds nothing. Nothing but darkness. The situation resembles to when a person looks into himself; and finally decide to look through all their insecurities and weaknesses, he finds a world of hardships and distress.

Stanza#5

In this stanza, the poet details his sufferings as when he expected a visitor; or in other words, sympathy; he found nothing but pain. Finding nothing (physical) at the door, his heart compelled him to thing of his beloved and unconsciously his lips uttered “Lenore?” to the words echoed back “Lenore!”. Thus, he found nothing but the emptiness within his soul.

Stanza#6

When the character clarifies his mind and convinces himself that there is no one at the door, he turns back. But as soon as he moves back, he hears another tapping sound from the window; clearer and louder than before. His heart again rushes, and he starts moving towards the window to see who is behind it. However, he soon realizes that it must be wind and nothing else. He overcomes his weakness and realizes the fact that he has lost Lenore forever.

Stanza#7

As he makes an effort to open the window, a raven comes in. It does not even acknowledge the speaker and simply flies in his own pace. It rests on the statues of “Pallas” simply doing nothing. The raven here symbolizes the “loss” of Lenore that intimidates him. The grief of losing his beloved is literally resting within his heart and he is not ready to get rid of it.

Stanza#8

As the raven shows up, the speaker smiles. The bird wore a serious expression of dignity and nobility. The speaker treats it as and individual and asks his name to which he replies “Nevermore”. This word reminds him of the pain that the deepes

Stanza#9

The narrator is shocked to core on seeing a bird speaking so blatantly. He is unable to understand the answer to his question. Further, he claims that no one would have ever experienced such an event. He symbolizes that no one has ever before been able to witness loss and grief in physical form. He considers himself to be “blessed” with this opportunity to put a name on his feelings: nevermore, the terminality of never living with Lenore again

Stanza#10

The bird just utters a single word and then rests there quietly. He remembers his friends who abandoned him and left him all on his own to go through this pain. He expects the same from this bird to which it again replies “nevermore” as if the grief of losing Lenore is going to stay by his side as long as he is alive.

Stanza#11

The speaker is awe-struck after realizing that may be “nevermore” is the only word that the bird has learned. Moreover, he thinks that it learned this word from his owner. The narrator then concludes that probably his master has too suffered a great deal and went through many hardships as to repeatedly use the word “nevermore”. That is where the bird would have possibly learned it.

Stanza#12

The narrator admits that he feels fascinated by raven’s thoughts and the repetition of specific word “nevermore”. He calmly sits on a chair right in front of the bird to watch it keenly. He finds it difficult to swallow the concept of “nevermore” thinking why can’t this grief be temporary? Why is the perception of his pain everlasting?

Stanza#13

The speaker sits in front of the bird tries to understand its behavior. He buries his mind into thoughts in an attempt to recognize the bird’s behavior. Moreover, he could see it stare at him with its “fiery” eyes. He lies on the soft cushion and sees the glistening lamp; soon realizing that Lenore will never share his physical space and life again.

Stanza#14

Here, the narrator seems to be lost in his thoughts so much that he starts hallucinating. He feels as if he is seeing angels; and a thick cloud is surrounding him. He smells a scent; perhaps a medicinal scent comparing it to “nepenthe” which he should take to overcome his feelings of loneliness and despair. He considers it to be a sign from God that he should forget about Lenore.

Stanza#15

The situation gets heated up as he confuses the bird as some holy figure, or an evil spirit. He starts to scream at the bird, which is unbothered by the speaker’s words. The narrator calls his home a desert land filled with fear and grief. He, with a ray of hope in his heart, asks the raven, if this home will be filled with love again or not; to which it replies “nevermore”.

Stanza#16

He continues to call the raven a “thing of evil” and again asks him if he would ever be able to hold Lenore again. As expected, the raven replies “nevermore”. The speaker tries to digest its words and accepts the answers to his questions. He feels chaotic and soon realizes that he is stuck in this pain forever. He has to suffer like this throughout his life

Stanza#17

The narrator is left in deep sorrow after listening to the raven’s answers. He continues to shout at it; asking it to go away from where it came. He wants to be alone and feel unbothered about whatever conversation he had with the bird. He yells at the raven to simply leave and never come back, to which it again replied “nevermore”. The character actually pleads his feelings of despair to take away the unbearable pain, but these feelings will never leave him alone.

Stanza#18

The poet ends this narrative by saying that “the raven” still sat there, beaming onto him. The feelings of sadness have captured the speaker’s soul, forever. This grief is going to stay by his side till his last breath. The character despises these feelings as they appear demonic to him now. He has been defeated by these feelings and never will he ever be able to find peace of mind.

See Also:

8 Reasons Why Edgar Allan Poe is Still an Important Figure

“The Imaginary Iceberg” by Elizabeth Bishop

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