Edgar Allen Poe- The Raven Second response

First, I would like to say how this poem reminds me of the beginning of the movie “Strangers.” Similarly to the movie, we do not know why the Raven is there. That is the first problem in the poem, who or what does the Raven represent? Not mentioned until the 43rd line of the poem, the Raven appears to be a symbol for death. It is possible the Raven is symbolic of death because of his reference to the afterlife when he mentions “the nights Plutonian Shore.” As stated in genius’ annotation of the Plutonian Shore, it is “an allusion to the afterlife and the bird has just emerged from the god of the afterlife, Pluto.” However, the Raven could also be the spirit of Lenore or even a figure of Poe’s imagination. Perhaps to really determine who the Raven is we have to look at another problem, the significance of ‘nevermore.’ Poe realizes that this nevermore is the Raven telling him that he will never see his love Lenore again, as pointed out by the genius annotation. (87-88) Without the annotation, I would have missed this crucial turning point in the poem. This makes me think that the Raven is Poe’s antagonist. He still misses his love Lenore and I would assume hopes to re encounter her in the afterlife. This Raven is denying him of any hope stating with that one word that he will never see her again. It is possible that the Raven is actually death relaying this message to him, but it is more likely his imagination has taken over. In the 14th stanza there is mention of a forgetful drink, so this could be a drunken imagination. This seems more likely because he is arguing with a bird about his dead love. My question to the class is What do you think the bird represents? Is it death, Lenore, his imagination, or something else? Also, I enjoy the way this poem sounds and flows more than the Shakespearean poems. Does anyone agree or disagree with this statement?

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8 Responses to Edgar Allen Poe- The Raven Second response

  1. ReinoldRojas says:

    I must agree with you when you say that the poem has a much better aural component than the Shakespearean poems. I believe it is due to the non structured nature of the poem and the rhyme scheme that it uses. There is a constant rhyme with the word “nevermore” however it is not structured in a predictable way. On lines 23-28 the rhyme scheme is not in the usual ABAB format but in AABCCC. This goes against our intuition when we see a poem because we have never seen one structured in this way. There are also many internal rhymes within the poem. These internal rhymes are always present but are never really the center of the poem so we are not likely to be conscious of them but they are present when we hear the poem aloud.

  2. Adherly Alvarez Cisneros says:

    The question you pose about what the raven might symbolize is a complex one, one without a single answer. Nevertheless, while trying to answer your question I found myself thinking about the similarities between the frequently alluded to alcohol and the raven itself in relation to the narrator. Max, I agree with you that the narrator “uses alcohol as a way to escape his sorrows.” In fact, I think that the raven can be representative of his negative habit of drinking to avoid his sorrows. He thinks its like “angels” sent to him to help him forget his sorrows, just like alcohol can: “Respite—respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore; / Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore!” (83-84). What he doesn’t realize is that alcohol is the opposite, it’s harmful, just like the raven has negative connotations and bluntly tells him that he isn’t there for good. At the end of the poem he might be seeing in the shadow his lost soul; he might (I’m not sure if he really does) realize that alcohol and the raven are negative, but he also seems to give in and understand that that won’t change his situation in any way. He will continue with his old ways it seems.

  3. Jeremy says:

    The answer to your final question is not an easy one. Poe is known for his rather depressing poems and short stories and so at first glance it would seem that The Raven is yet another depressing work of his. However, it would be imprudent to not discuss Poe’s mention of the “forgetful drink” that you bring up. Perhaps this is not merely a comment on death but a comment on all of Poe’s poetry; that either it is depressing because depression is woven into the very fiber of his being or because this dark depressed side is brought out only in the troubled sleep of a man who drinks too much and therefore the poem begins “While I nodded, nearly napping” (3). Additionally, the alliteration in this line is striking. It is interesting to note that in the holy texts of Judaism the letter “n” is often left out of psalms that go from the equivalent of a to b as it is considered to be depressing and that no good words begin with it.

  4. Steven asks if the raven represents death, Lenore, Poe’s imagination, or something else. Although there are references to alcohol and hallucinations in the poem, I think the raven is an actual, physical raven that lands in Poe’s house. The fact that he’s alone in his chamber late at night causes a natural fear of unknown noises. Ravens, like parrots, are birds that mimic people. This raven happened to know only one word, “nevermore,” and Poe’s overactive imagination leads him to lend credence and importance to this one word that the raven keeps repeating. Poe himself admits that “caught from some unhappy master…” (75), this bird must only know this one word. I think that given the state of panic that Poe was in, if the raven had only known the word “cookie,” Poe would have driven himself into a frenzy as well.

  5. Marc says:

    In my opinion, the Raven is part of the narrators dream, since the setting of the poem takes place in the narrators chamber. It seems to me that the narrator has unknowingly fallen asleep and is experiencing an introspective type of dream where the Raven is used as a tool for his thoughts and feelings repressed in his conscience. The narrator even acknowledges himself in line 60 that “no living human being ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door”, however instead of recognizing the situation as fantastical, he takes it for granted as almost all off us do when we are dreaming. While the Raven, which I interpret as his own conscience, does not say much at all, it serves almost as a person who the narrator can open up to, about the death of his loved one, Lenore.

  6. As I was reading the poem, “The Raven”, I too saw that there are many references to many different gods as well as the afterlife. Poe places the raven “upon a bust of Pallas…” “Pallas” is a reference to a Greek Titan, god of war (41). Similarly, in line 47, Poe makes reference to Pluto, the Roman god of the underworld. Poe also makes reference to the Judeo- Christian God using words like Seraphim (80), prophet (85), Tempter (86), and Aidenn (93). To attempt to answer Steven’s first question, I believe, based off of all the mention of various gods and biblical references, that the Raven may be a godly sign or message for the narrator and as we see many times throughout the poem, his dilemma is in how to interpret it.

  7. Conor McGuire says:

    i would have to agree in the idea that his could all be just a drunken hallucination. The poem beginning with “while i nodded, nearly napping” seems to affirm this notion that he has been drinking, probably had become a drunkard, and is in constant sorrow over his lost Lenore. Maybe the raven is representative of grief and loved lost. With the poem ending with the Raven and his shadow seemingly forever placed over Poe and his own floating soul this suggests that Poe will never overcome this feeling of grief and will live under it in loneliness until he may one day again see his Lenore. The poem is representative of grief and despair can envelop and overtake someone’s life.

  8. Max Richter says:

    To me, the Raven seems to be not only in the narrators imagination, but he actually sees the Raven representing himself. I agree with Steven when he says “this could be a drunken imagination”, but I also think that he uses alcohol as a way to escape his sorrows. Furthermore, he sees himself in the Raven when the Raven sits upon the head of Pallas, which represents intelligence. Clearly with all the references the narrator makes from Seraphin to Night’s Plutonian, it can be seen he is an intelligent man. He seems to be a reader based on line 12 and perhaps thinks the Raven sitting on a bust of Pallas is a quite appropriate depiction of him. At the same time, he is lonely, missing his dear Lenore. He finally sees that alcohol isn’t the answer to his problems and accepts the fact that “nevermore” will he see his love again.

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