Raven by Edgar Allan Poe Analysis
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).
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.
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.
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.