“The Raven”- Edgar Allan Poe

The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe

The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe

And the raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting

On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;

And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming;

And the lamplight o’er him streaming throws the shadow on the floor;

And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor

Shall be lifted—nevermore!

Many scholars focus on the raven. The bird has become associated with dark, mysterious places and days.  Just watch any Halloween movie and you’ll see one, perched ominously on the rusty gate of an abandoned house or an illegible tombstone in a foggy cemetery. Poe himself titled the poem “The Raven,” drawing the reader’s attention to its dark messenger before even getting to the first line.

This Halloween, I want to focus on an equally important word in the poem, one that I think does even more than the raven to communicate the menacing tone of Poe’s work. It brings more distress to the narrator than loss or fear. It drives him to eventual madness: nevermore.

The narrator begins the poem as many of us do, reading late into the night, trying to forget the troubles of his day. Maybe you even picked up “The Raven” looking for the exact same thing. How many times have we all “nodded, nearly napping” while reading before shutting off the light and going to sleep? He hears a faint sound and dismisses it, as we all would, as “some visitor… nothing more.” He even goes so far as to open the door but seeing nothing but darkness, his imagination begins to run wild with fear. The rapping returns, this time at his window and he opens it to find a raven. The raven comes in, unusually calm for a wild bird, sits on top of a bust, and proceeds to answer each of the narrator’s questions with one word.

“Nevermore.”

Just as the poem begins in a mundane and perfectly typical scene—a lonely guy reading in bed, trying to forget his girlfriend—so do his questions. He starts by asking the raven his name, to which the bird replies “nevermore.” The narrator is amused, thinking this an absurd name for a bird, attributing it “little meaning, little relevancy.”  But soon his thoughts turn darker. He begins to think about that word, wondering what the raven means when he says it. The word itself begins to take a hold in his mind. He fears he will “nevermore” be able to get past his lost love. He fears he will not see her in heaven. He fears that there is no cure for his heartache. Finally, he fears that the raven will never leave and that he, the heartbroken, will be haunted by that word.

When a friend asks you if their ex-girl or boyfriend will ever come back, you say “maybe” or “perhaps.” If you don’t think there’s a very good chance, you could even say “probably not” and still leave a small opening for hope and possibility. When someone asks you if they will ever get over the loss of a loved one, you say “eventually” or “with time.” But Poe does not use any of these words to answer the narrator’s questions. Instead, he turns to the absolute. The raven answers with a word devoid of any hope of reconciliation, healing, or even closure. When finally pleaded with to leave, to leave the now distraught narrator with peace, if not with hope, the raven answers again, “nevermore.” Although it takes him a few stanzas, the narrator realizes the significance of the word “nevermore.” And it drives him into despair and insanity.

Poe uses plenty of dark imagery to convey the menacing tone necessary for a poem about heartbreak and loss. From the very first line to the description of the room’s furniture, Poe evokes a dark, damp, and forgotten atmosphere. The “bleak December” night, full of shadows from a neglected fire, does nothing to alleviate this ominous mood. The narrator himself is scared into a frenzy just by a faint tapping at his door. When the raven finally appears, all the more frightening for his unconventionally composed and precise manner, the reader and narrator both are about to jump out of their skin. Add to that the image of dark curtains and heavy, velvet chairs, as well as the use of words like “croaking,” “ghastly,” and “gaunt” and it’s no wonder that the reader is caught up in the narrator’s descent into fear. But the word that really pushes the narrator, and by extension the reader, over the edge is the final one, made even more significant for its placement within the stanzas. The word that the raven repeats and repeats, never allowing the narrator to escape its finality.

“Nevermore.”

The thing that drives the narrator to insanity is not a dark or dreary night. It’s not the loss of his love or even a sound at his door or window. The thing that destroys the narrator and makes the poem such a memorably dark work is the loss of hope, without any chance of recovery. It is the definite and absolute nature of that most critical word, “nevermore.”

10 thoughts on ““The Raven”- Edgar Allan Poe

  1. I thought it was interesting because The Raven only said 1 word. The 1 word he says is “Nevermore”. The Raven was calm unlike most ravens. Most ravens are not calm and mean. The short story was kind of predicting. You could predict what would happen next. The Raven was a very good short story.

  2. I like the raven you described it very well with great detail. We are reading it in my 9th grade English class and I liked it. It was a great story to read. It is also a very creepy story to read because of the raven always just saying nevermore. That is what I think of the raven.

  3. Very informal and full of insight.Though somewhat too informal. As in too much info for non readers. They could easily take data from here. But still a good Blog.

  4. I think this was interesting. “The Raven” only said one word and it was “Nevermore”. “The Raven” Is a very scary story. The Raven sat above the door and said “Nevermore”. I think this was interesting because all he said was one word.

  5. Poe is truly a master of darkness. He would get the title of Prince of Darkness, if Ozzy Osbourne didn’t already have it. The way he uses key words to incite madness and fear is genius. Never before has been a writer such as this and there will be another one nevermore. Truly he is the greatest writer ever.

  6. Hi! my name is Greg Brumley I read the book the Raven in class and I found it to be a little creepy. In the book, the black raven it was creepy because of the bird that just fly’s in and sits there and dos not move. When he talks to the raven all it has to say is nevermore and he is right it dos drive you insane at the end of it all. The book is good yes but I think I could use a little bit more thing to describe the girl and the man.

  7. I thought that the raven was a very good story. The detail in the story was very good. I thought the story really reflected on the authors life. This story was really not very appealing to me. That is my take on this story.

  8. I like the raven you described it very well with great detail. We are reading it in my 9th grade English class and I liked it. It was a very creepy but interesting story. I thank this because the other uses one word to describe the whole story “Nevermore.” My name is Logan and i like your writing.

  9. I thought the raven was good because the bird only said one word. The raven says one word that drives the narrator insane. The raven sat above the door and said never more. I thought that the raven gave a cool supernatural feel.

  10. what i like about the raven is the way that the author words the story. Instead of use words that we use in our everyday life, he use big descriptive words that make the story more enjoyable to read. I also like that the Raven only said one word nevermore.

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