Themes in The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe

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Uncertainty and the loss of a loved one can trigger fear which is one of the most influential human emotions. The controlling nature fear has over us can make us second guess ourselves and overthink things. This can be seen when the narrator becomes frightened when someone keeps knocking at his chamber door. Also he misses his wife, Lenore who he is trying to forget about because it brings him sadness.

The meaning of the The Raven is that you cannot escape the death of a loved one because near the end of the poem the Raven stays perched above his door. A Raven represents death and sadness which can be attributed to him losing his wife. One can assume the poem was a dream because of how he was half asleep and also how he asks for the Raven’s name. This poem depicts the symbolism of not being able to get over the loss of a loved one and feeling trapped by its sadness. In The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe, themes of death, the supernatural, and irrationality can be seen throughout the poem.

Many of Poe’s poetry was about death but The Raven explores more the grief, pain, and mourning of the dead. Near the beginning of the poem the narrator is sad and mourning in his dark chamber he is trying to find “surcease of sorrow” (Poe ln 7) by reading his book. This can be seen as the narrator trying to distract himself and forget about the pain of losing someone he loved. Also one can see how the narrators reading of “forgotten lore” (Poe ln 2) could be him trying to gain knowledge about reversing death. The narrator overall acts naturally about losing someone close, he feels lost, alone and attempts to deny it.

Before the Raven came, the narrator heard someone knocking at his chamber door he goes and sees who it is but finds no one. He calls out “Lenore” (Poe ln 32) as if seeing or hoping she comes back to him. After the Raven’s arrival, he asks the bird if there is “Is there—is there balm in Gilead?—tell me—tell me, I implore!/ Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.” (Poe ln 103-104). This implies hope that he might see Lenore again in heaven, he is obsessed with a desire to be reunited with Lenore in some way in heaven. The Raven can represent the narrator’s worst fears about Lenore.

In another poem by Edgar Allen Poe there is a dead woman named Lenore, the narrator reassures himself that he will see his wife again in heaven. But in The Raven the narrator ultimately takes a darker viewpoint with the death of Lenore. After the Raven came into his chamber he cut down the narrators hope that Lenore’s ghost is visiting him when he repeatedly says “Nevermore” (Poe ln 59). This slides the narrator into a more depressed state then he already was in. Poe leaves unclear whether the Raven is telling the truth or he is voicing the narrator’s anxieties about losing Lenore forever. The poem finishes on the negative note that nothing can exist beyond death, that there is no “balm in Gilead” (Poe ln 104). Also his “soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor/ Shall be lifted nevermore” (Poe ln 122-123 ) This can mean he can never escape his mourning over Lenore.

The Raven is a solid example of gothic literature which originated in the 18th century in England which can be attributed to the poem being related to the supernatural. In gothic literature characters are super emotional and apart from society often living alone in the dark. The Raven contains many similar characteristics that alludes to the narrative’s gothic nature which can be seen when the narrator says, “Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary/ Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December” (Poe ln 1, 7).

The Raven itself seems like a demonic talking bird that comes at midnight. Also, the wording of the poem is dark and highly gothic which suggests the poem has elements of the supernatural. In other gothic works like Frankenstein they tend to make known that their characters are supernatural. Where in The Raven it is up to the read on whether the Raven is the genuine presence of a supernatural force of if it is the figment of the tortured narrator’s imagination. At the start of the poem the narrators reading of his books is a failed attempt to distract himself from the death of Lenore and is drowsing off.

After being roused by the mysterious tapping at the door he senses the presence of is dead love followed by the arrival of the Raven through the window. Which could mean the Raven has truly arrived but the narrators exhaustion could mean he has actually fallen more deeply asleep and the knock signaled the entrance into his dream. Also the Raven and its repeated message of “Nevermore” (Poe ln 104) could be seen as supernatural visitation or it could be and expression of the narrator’s anxieties in which he could never fully leave.

When the narrators states, “Much I marveled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly/ Though its/ answer little meaning—little relevancy bore/ For we cannot help agreeing that no living human/ being/ Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door/ bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door/ With such name as “Nevermore.” (Poe ln 69-71) He was referring to the fact that he does not know where the bird came from or that no one could have seen it before which makes it more believable that this is a dream and the Raven is a supernatural spirit.

Also the narrator refers to the Raven as a “thing of evil… bird or devil!” (Poe ln 103). He knows what the bird came to say but he still cannot let go of Lenore so he lets the supernatural spirit haunt him. Ultimately the poem does not take sides on if its events are supernatural or just his subconscious.


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Themes in The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe. (2021, Jun 19). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/themes-in-the-raven-by-edgar-allen-poe/

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