“The Raven” – Second Response

In “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe, the poem has a negative tension because the speaker’s mind is affected by stress. The speaker cannot think clearly because he is depressed over his lost Lenore. It is implied that Lenore had been the love of the narrator’s life. The poem begins with the speaker reading a book to distract him from his sadness over his lost Lenore. “From my books surcease of sorrow—sorrow for the lost Lenore— For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore—” (12-13). We see here how the book doesn’t distract him, instead he’s thinking about how Lenore is rare and radiant, and he remembers his loss. When a noise disturbs the narrator’s reading he considers that is may be his dead love outside; his judgment is being affected by his grief over Lenore, “And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, ‘Lenore?’ ”(33-35). I think the speaker so badly wanted the noise to be coming from Lenore he hoped so much deep inside so he asked to see if maybe it was her. This goes along with the supernatural feeling the audience was interested in during Poe’s time. I think Poe used Lenore as a way to relate to his readers because most people can relate to or understand a lost love in some way. “But whose velvet-violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o’er, She shall press, ah, nevermore!”(90-91) here the speaker is confused about what is going on around him but then his thoughts start drifting and he realizes he is really not seeing Lenore again. At the end of the poem the tension is not resolved “And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor shall be lifted—nevermore!” (125-126). These are the last lines of the poem the narrator accepts his depression that he will be forever miserable.

The Narrator faces a problem in the beginning of the poem when he is unsure who is tapping and making noise at his door. At first he tells himself, in lines 20-21, that it’s “some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door;—this is it and nothing more.” This does not work to calm his nerves, rather, the speaker gets more worried and we see this in line 24 as he tries speaking to the person at the door but no one answered “ “sir,” said I, “or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;”. I think this was a normal response for someone who is scared, when you’re in a sticky situation you will do anything to get out of it. As the poem progresses the speaker gets more and more freaked out wondering who is there. However when he goes to check, there is just “darkness there and nothing more” (28). After stanza five and six there is still no one at the door and the speaker is getting more and more frightened. The problem is finally resolved when “In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore;” (45). I know when I think there’s a robber outside and I figure out the noise is really coming from a raccoon I am relived! The poem then continues on with the narrator “speaking” to the raven.

Questions for the class:

1) Why do you think the author choose a raven? Would you have chosen something else and why?

2) Why do you think Poe uses so much alliteration in “The Raven”? What effect do you think it has on the poem?

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2 Responses to “The Raven” – Second Response

  1. I believe Poe chose the Raven as the main symbol of this poem because it has been believed that a Raven is the link between the living world and the afterlife. Ravens are also darkly colored and their caws, unlike most birds, are a deeper note. When cawing, I often feel that ravens sound like they are mocking someone. So I agree with Poe’s choice to use a raven. Poe’s works, whether it be poems or short stories are often dramatic, emotional, and dark. The alliteration adds to the drama of his work when one is reading. When previously reading this poem, I had not noticed the “negative tension.” I agree that it is caused by the stress of loss and I think it adds to the dramatic feelings created by the alliteration.

  2. Deborah Shteierman says:

    I like the point Bella makes about the speaker’s reasoning capabilities being compromised due to his extreme sorrow. (It’s similar to Rani’s point that the speaker is in a state of fear and paranoia and therefore may embellish what is happening around him). This is an important point because it gives the reader insight as to why the speaker is acting a certain way-which in this case, can be viewed as borderline hysterical at times. For example, as Bella points out, “When a noise disturbs the narrator’s reading he considers that [th]is may be his dead love outside.”

    I would like to suggest that when Poe uses alliteration, it’s usually to emphasize a certain aspect of the poem. For example, in line 31, Poe writes, “Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before.” This emphasizes that the speaker is completely involved in his/her daydreaming. Also, in line 83, Poe writes, “What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore,” emphasizing the negativity that the speaker associates with this raven.

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