Breakdown of The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe.

Edgar Allen Poe – The Raven (Read by Sir Christopher Lee).

This is a truly great poem that captures the reader/listener with its eerie words of a darkened, depressing room, with a lonely man. As the poem unfolds its clear to visualise what is happening and what emotion it has been written in. I will be analysing The Raven and interpreting its meaning.

The poem introduces a man weak and weary from reading in his chamber, reading a book on forgotten Lore. A sudden tapping sound comes from the door, the man is startled by the tapping sounds. It is then made that the man is looking back referring to the time of year it happened, December.  The man pines for his love, he is filled with sorrow and disrepair due to dealing with the loss of his love, Lenore. Claiming she is now nameless on earth but has a name as an angel.

As the tapping continues the curtains begin to move, as he tried to refrain from answering the door. Reassuring himself it is just a visitor and nothing more, he opens the door to nothing but darkness. His fear starts to set in as he stands in the door way, he speaks the word “Lenore!” which echoes back to him and nothing more.

The man retires back to his room, the tapping gets louder, but from the window this time. He recognises this and explores the mystery of the sound, opening the shutters, in flies a Raven to the top of his chamber door. The raven intrigues the man, out of curiosity he asks the Raven for its name, as if he were a normal guest. Shockingly the Raven replies “Nevermore!” The man realises this is all the Raven can say and that the bird will leave the following day like friends have before.

The man links the Raven saying “Nevermore!” with an unhappy previous master that the Raven has learnt the word from. This distracts him from his sorrow and allows himself to smile. He pulls up a chair and begins to converse with the Raven in front of the door. He ponders what the grim, ungainly, ghastly Raven means by croaking “Nevermore”. As the man reclines into the velvet seat his mind wanders to thinking of the spirit of Lenore as an angel.

As his thoughts get more intense an element of delusion arises as he sees and smells religious based things. This upsets him as he concludes the Raven has been sent by these angels to relieve him of his grief of Lenore, but he doesn’t want to let his grief go. Mentioning a ‘Quaff’ showing he is convinced the Raven and the Angels will provide a drink of nepenthe to banish his thoughts of Lenore.

This quickly changes as the man is angered, accusing the Raven of being a profit of the devil, he is trying to make sense of whether the Raven is there to bring back Lenore or cast the man out into a despairing shore. He continues to demand the truth, still questioning the Raven, who replies with yet again “Nevermore!” Again the man shouts that the bird is a Prophet of evil and can’t decide if he’s a bird or a devil.

The man continues to torment himself by further questioning the Raven, comparing the Raven to God asking if he will ever get to hold his beloved Lenore again, “Nevermore!” replies the Raven. The man continues to get angrier as he has the realisation that the Raven isn’t going to help him, so he banishes the Raven back to the depths of the underworld and into the storm.

He thought the Raven was a messenger who would bring back Lenore but this is not the case, so the man rages at the bird to remove its beak from his heart and leave, never to return, emphasizing that the Raven has been playing on the man’s emotions. “Nevermore!” is again the response; the Raven doesn’t move an inch from the door.

The eyes of the Raven are linked with a demon dreaming, another reflection of the devil. The birds shadow is cast on the floor, from the light behind it almost like a demonic statue, where the man lies dead on the floor as his soul leaves his body into his own personal hell.

The emotional theme runs throughout this poem building from calm to insanity, there is a clear journey readers/listeners are taken on as this poem unfold. The two characters are defined, one through a lot of speech, the other with merely a word. Yet both hold individuality and identifiable roles.

The poem starts in past tense, referring to the time of year and what had happened, but in the final part of the poem it is written in present tense evoking that it isn’t the past and the Raven is still present as the man is dying. Could the poem be the thoughts of the man as he is dying?

The Raven is a projection of the man’s depression over the loss of his wife, his emotions change rapidly throughout as he converses with the Raven which could be perceived as his own mind, asking questions he know the answer too.

Over all The Raven is very intense and can be interpreted in a few ways, I believe that the man slowly becomes insane through the obsession of being reunited with his lost love Lenore. That the Raven is in fact in the mans mind created through severe depression.

© Poetry Phenomenon 2014


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