Edgar Allan Poe’s“The Raven” Analysis
"The Raven" is the most famous of Poe's poems, notable for its melodic and dramatic qualities.
Rhyme and Meter • The meter of the poem is mostly trochaic octameter, with eight stressed-unstressed two-syllable feet per lines. • Combined with the predominating ABCBBB end rhyme scheme and the frequent use of internal rhyme, the trochaic octameter and the refrain of "nothing more" and "nevermore" give the poem a musical lilt when read aloud.
Assonance: • Poe also emphasizes the "O" sound in words such as "Lenore" and "nevermore" in order to underline the melancholy and lonely sound of the poem and to establish the overall atmosphere.
Repetition • Finally, the repetition of "nevermore" gives a circular sense to the poem and contributes to what Poe termed the unity of effect, where each word and line adds to the larger meaning of the poem.
Other Poetic Devices Used: • Alliteration: repetition of the initial sound • “weak and weary” (1) • “Nodded, nearly, napping” (4) • Onomatopoeia: the use of words whose sounds suggest the natural sound of an object or activity • Rapping • Tapping • Beating
Gothic Elements • The unnamed narrator appears in a typically Gothic setting with a lonely apartment, a dying fire, and a "bleak December" night while wearily studying his books in an attempt to distract himself from his troubles.
Plot • He thinks occasionally of Lenore but is generally able to control his emotions, although the effort required to do so tires him and makes his words equally slow and outwardly pacified.
Focus on Emotion • However, over the course of the narrative, the protagonist becomes more and more agitated both in mind and in action: • a progression that he demonstrates through his rationalizations and eventually through his increasingly exclamation-ridden monologue. • In every stanza near the end, however, his exclamations are punctuated by the calm desolation of the sentence "Quoth the Raven, 'Nevermore,'" reflecting the despair of his soul.
"The Raven" refers to an agonized protagonist's memories of a deceased woman. • Through poetry, Lenore's premature death is implicitly made aesthetic, and the narrator is unable to free himself of his reliance upon her memory. • He asks the raven if there is "balm in Gilead" and therefore spiritual salvation, or if Lenore truly exists in the afterlife, but the raven confirms his worst suspicions by rejecting his supplications.
The fear of death or of oblivion informs much of Poe's writing, and "The Raven" is one of his bleakest publications because it provides such a definitively negative answer.
Raven: bearer of Bad News • Poe's choice of a raven as the bearer of ill news is appropriate for a number of reasons: • Originally, Poe sought only a dumb beast that was capable of producing human-like sounds without understanding the words' meaning, and he claimed that earlier conceptions of "The Raven" included the use of a parrot. • In this sense, the raven is important because it allows the narrator to be both the deliverer and interpreter of the sinister message, without the existence of a blatantly supernatural intervention.
Raven: Bearer of Bad News • At the same time, the raven's black feather have traditionally been considered a magical sign of ill omen: • Poe may also be referring to Norse mythology, where the god Odin had two ravens named Hugin and Munin, which respectively meant "thought" and "memory.“ • The narrator is a student and thus follows Hugin, but Munin continually interrupts his thoughts and in this case takes a physical form by landing on the bust of Pallas, which alludes to Athena, the Greek goddess of learning.
Unreliable Narrator? • Due to the late hour of the poem's setting and to the narrator's mental turmoil, the poem calls the narrator's reliability into question. • At first the narrator attempts to give his experiences a rational explanation, but by the end of the poem, he has ceased to give the raven any interpretation beyond that which he invents in his own head.
Discuss Among Yourselves • Interpreting “The Raven:” is it a poem about: • Sadness and Loss • Madness • A poem in which music (sound) is more important than meaning