Using poetic devices such as internal rhyme and anaphora, Poe tells a fairly straight forward account of a man’s encounter with a “Stately” raven (VII 45). At the start of the work, the man is already on edge due to the mysterious tapping at his chamber door. In lines 16-17, he says “the silken, sad, uncertain rustling of each purple curtain/ Thrilled me—filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before” (III). However, throughout the work, the reader witnesses the deterioration of the reader’s mental state. He finds himself shrieking at the raven in line 114, commanding it to leave his door (XVII). This drastic shift in mental state makes the reader question the events of the poem. Surely the paranoia of the speaker has caused certain parts of the night’s events to become embellished. Where can the reader draw the line between reality and the speaker’s distorted vision?
Similar to the narrator of “The Raven”, the speaker of Walt Whitman’s work, “Song of Myself” share a sense of a hysteria. In Part II of Whitman’s work, the narrator is frantically trying to bond with nature, saying “I am mad for it to be in contact with me” (VI 26). However, one might also argue that Whitman’s speaker seems well grounded in comparison to “The Raven’s” speaker. He even states that he is a 37 year old in perfect health in line 10. What do you think of the mental state of the narrator of “Song of Myself” compared to “The Raven”? Do you think they are similar or different?
Throughout the work, the narrator holds a dialogue of sorts with the raven sitting above his door. He asks the raven a series of questions, to which the raven replies, “Nevermore”. The raven’s constant response drives the speaker mad, ultimately imprisoning his soul in eternal sadness over the death of Lenore. Depending on the reader’s self, his questions for raven change. He asks about a variety of things such the “balm in Gilead” (XV 104) and “Lenore” (XVI 110). As a result, the meaning of the word “Nevermore” also varies. How does the meaning of “Nevermore” reflect the reader’s self? What do you think “Nevermore” means and what effect does it have on the speaker’s mental state?