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Raven by Edgar Allan Poe Analysis

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The Raven, by E.A

Poe, is a poem about sadness and loss. The narrator attempts to escape from melancholy and human mortality, trying to slip away into a kind of forgetfulness. Three main supporting elements of this poem are the Romantic Characteristics taken from Romanticism (a movement in the arts that glorified nature, idealized the past, and celebrated human experiences). Symbolism (use in literature of objects or events to represent something other than themselves, frequently abstract ideas or concepts). Finally the mood/atmosphere (established though description of setting and the overall impression of the situation).

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The Raven is a dramatic monologue, a narrative poem and one of the most popular poems of Edgar Allan Poe. The poem shows different stages of the speaker’s mood which is pensive and sorrowful throughout as his beautiful beloved has died. Loneliness and alienation as well as beauty and death are the themes of the poem. The speaker is reminiscent of the beauty of his beloved, and also her untimely death. The speaker shouts out in the end, “Leave my loneliness unbroken!” because it also helps him reflect upon himself. It is certainly a long poem of eighteen stanzas comprising of six lines each. The meter of the poem is trochaic octameter. The poem has a supernatural and grave tone, but a remarkable imagery. The repetition of words like “nothing more” and “nevermore” give the poem a musical lilt and emphasize the rhyming pattern. The setting of the poem seems very Gothic as the speaker lives in a lonely apartment, the fire is dying, and it’s a “bleak December” night. The use of a ‘devil bird’ such as raven also suggests this as it represents death and darkness. It’s a dreary night, the speaker is feeling “weak and weary” and is tormented by the loss of love. Poe creates a spooky and creepy atmosphere of horror and suspense. It’s dark, cold, late and bleak. The rustling sound of the curtains is also sad for him. The protagonist is grieving the loss of his love Lenore, whom he describes as "the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore”. He is visited by a mysterious bird that speaks, but only one word ‘Nevermore’

When he hears some tapping in the house he is startled and has “fantastic terrors never felt before”, but his “soul grew stronger” and he calls out to the visitor, thinking it is Lenore but it is unexpectedly a raven, an overbearing intruder so to say. He describes the raven as “Ghastly grim and ancient” which is an embodiment of grief. He wonders if the bird is a devil or a prophet who can tell whether he and his beloved will ever meet in heaven and if there is “balm in Gilead” meaning respite and hope in future. To this the bird replies ‘Nevermore’ which is the only word it knows. Every time the speaker asks or says something, the bird only responds by saying ‘Nevermore’. This word is used as a refrain at the end of each stanza, giving the lines a different meaning. The speaker assumes that the bird will go away like everyone else and leave him alone the next day. He is drowned in grief for his beloved who is no more and finds it difficult to overcome the loss. Throughout the poem we see the speaker’s depression and the melancholy side is emphasized by the darkness of the cold night of December. With the speakers growing tension revealed in his thoughts and questions, the stanzas become more and more dramatic. Gradually in the poem we observe that he becomes growingly agitated both mentally and physically, the ending of every stanza with “Nevermore” just adds to the despair of his soul. Some critics call the poem one of the bleakest poems written by Poe, because of the negative answers repeated throughout. The poet uses literary devices such as alliterations like ‘while’, ‘weak’ and ‘weary’ in the first line which produces an effect of unsteadiness. The symbol used in the poem is that of the raven itself that has a dark and gloomy countenance similar to the narrator’s mental turmoil. The Bust of Pallas is also symbolic of the goddess of Wisdom and the speaker’s beautiful chamber symbolizes the beauty of his beloved, Lenore. The narrator can’t avoid thinking of his beloved and her memories just add to his pain and sorrow. It’s interesting to see in the poem how the raven stimulates his nostalgia for Lenore and he expresses his grief through the medium of a creature that has no feelings or consciousness. The poet Edgar Allan Poe uses a number of folk and classical references such as the bust of Pallas, night’s Plutonian shore, Gilead, distant Aidenn, etc. The main theme of the poem as we can understand is undying love and devotion of the narrator towards his beloved Lenore, whom he desires to both forget and remember at the same time. He experiences a conflict here that simply adds to his grief. This suggests some ambiguity in the mental state of the narrator as it dwindles between forgetting and remembering. However, he wishes and hopes that one day he will be united with his beloved in heaven. But it’s strange to note that inspite of missing his beloved so intensely, the poet doesn’t describe Lenore in detail in the poem. The other themes in the poem are the death of the young beautiful woman and the helplessness and grief of the narrator. The poem tells of the poet’s remarkable imagination and deft command of the language which he uses so beautifully to bring out the larger meaning of the poem. He uses words such as weary, bleak, dying, mystery, stillness, grave, which contribute to the overall meaning and melancholic tone of the poem. It’s a dramatic poem possessing a tragic element and expressing deep human pain of the loss of love.

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He never managed to finish college because he was a drunk and used to gamble. Even life with his relatives did not work out for him. This vicious cycle of sadness never left him and after the failure of his first two marriages he married Virginia. This marriage was first done in secret since she was his cousin and in addition thirteen years of age making her a minor. Furthermore, it expresses the unending devotion that the narrator has for a loved one they have lost. It is also a mourning poem like a dirge that never ends. The mournful tone could also be as result of the narrator’s grief due to his mother’s Eliza Poe’s death (Gerald, 72). Analyze a love and death poem relating it to both the cultural time in which it was written and the present. The poem describes the narrator’s deep anguish after losing a loved one. This deep feeling of loss can only result from deeper feelings of love. The strong bond that the love causes is the reason as to why the narrator is so saddened by his loss. He keeps thinking that the person who left them is going to come back hence when he hears a knock he assumes that it is Lenore. The way the knock on the door is described as gentle and his response in a sure manner shows his anticipation that Lenore will return to him. The arrival of the bird makes him excited that he will hear from Lenore. The narrator even seems happy for a moment when the bird is there (Robert 99). The death of Lenore seems to have devastated the narrator because his current mental state is questionable. He thinks that the bird has been sent from the afterlife with a message from Lenore. He even believes that the bird can speak and when it responds unfavorably to his question he gets agitated.The poem is composed of eighteen stanzas each of which has five lines. It uses a lot of rhyme within and without the stanzas, for instance the more, evermore and nevermore. It also has a lot of alliteration in the lines one is rapping, tapping and napping. There is an extensive use of repletion as the word nevermore has been repeated to end the stanzas. The main theme is death that describes loss and mourning and best represented by the sad tone maintained through out the poem (Gerald, 70). The Raven was Poe’s first work that made him popular and the way he wrote it to satisfy both the classical readers and seasonal readers. This work made Poe a household name in American literature. The work encompasses Poe’s literary skills since he wrote both poems and narratives. This is a poem that was written in narrative style but contains poem properties. The description is as a narrative but the literary work is done in stanzas and lines just like a poem. This poem shows Poe’s ability to combine his creative abilities to come up with a brilliant work of art (Robert 101).

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In sum, also, the raven speaks one word, "Nevermore." This shows that the narrator is being punished for something that he did. His punishment is immortality, which explains why he would never see Lenore again. Lenore is punishing him for what he did to her. She drives him into insanity, and the pain of knowing he will be lonely and insane forever is her retribution. Then there is the knocking, a sign of endless guilt

The knocking goes on and on, driving him into insanity. The knocking jumbles his thoughts and makes him incoherent. Lenore wants him to suffer as much as he possibly can. She kept tapping at the door and then the window in order to make him never forget his guilt. Poe used all of the right elements to portray a man tormented by guilt. The raven only crushed the faint hope of seeing his love again. Also, the one worded phrasing that the raven speaks is also a sign of guilt, which is tormenting the narrator. Then, there is the knocking, the repetitive knocking that starts to drive him insane. Poe portrayed a guilt ridden man very well in this poem.

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Gerald, Kennedy. A Historical Guide to Edgar Allan Poe. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2001. Print.

Robert, Regan. Poe: A Collection of Critical Essays. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice- Hall, 2007. Print.

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