“The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe is undoubtedly the dark poet’s most acclaimed work, and subsequently one of the most famous poems ever written. These facts come as no surprise once one reads this enigmatic narrative poem and examines the themes and symbolism that Poe so precisely exudes through his text. “The Raven” tells the story of an unnamed narrator who is mourning the loss of his love Lenore when a mysterious talking raven visits him. The narrator’s conversation with the raven slowly marks his descent into lunacy.
Through his text, Poe eloquently displays themes of loss, madness, and loneliness.
Poe’s dialect, tone, and style only reinforce these themes and make them more prevalent to the reader. The first theme revealed through Poe’s discourse is unquestionably loss. The narrator first mentions his absent lover in the ninth line of the poem. “From my books surcease of sorrow-sorrow for the lost Lenore- For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore-“ (Poe).
This excerpt is merely the introduction to the narrator’s anguish over Lenore, which continues throughout the entire work. Through this quotation, Poe presents the reader with another theme that seems to reoccur within the poem, the theme of the divine.
The narrator cherishes Lenore so much that his connects her to an angel. This theme of the divine also serves as symbolism later in the poem when the narrator starts to feel the presence of angels stating “Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from and unseen censer Swung by seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor. ” (Poe) The symbolism comes within the same stanza when the narrator becomes confused by the association of angels with the raven and becomes angry calling the bird a “prophet” and a “thing of evil” (Poe).
From this point on in the poem, the narrator, as well as the reader, start to associate the raven with darkness; therefore it becomes a symbol of malevolence. These themes of loss and the divine were undoubtedly carefully put together by Poe, considering how they work so well off of one another not only in the poem but in life. The next theme revealed by Poe is that of madness, a theme that is arguably the most prevalent throughout the entire poem. The theme of madness is revealed in ways both obvious and obscure by Poe. Firstly, the obvious exposition of madness comes right as the raven arrives to the narrator.
The narrator immediately starts speaking to the raven as if it were human, and more so, the narrator actually becomes irritated when he learns that the raven can only respond with one word: “nevermore. ” The theme of madness is further driven on when the narrator tries to speak to his beloved Lenore whilst he is completely alone, stating “ Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing, Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before; But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token, And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, ‘Lenore? This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, ‘Lenore! ’” (Poe). Without this theme, “The Raven” would certainly be a completely different poem. The narrator’s madness drives the dark and ominous feel of the poem, as well as the most important aspect of the poem: the raven itself. The final important theme of this narrative poem is revealed closer to the end of the poem, that theme being loneliness.
This theme is indisputably present throughout the entire work, but the theme of the narrator’s agonizing loneliness truly peaks in the last stanza of Poe’s acclaimed poem. “And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor Shall be lifted- nevermore! ” (Poe). This quotation exemplifies the narrator succumbing to his madness, which was unquestionably caused by his severe loneliness. The raven’s shadow mentioned in this quotation symbolizes the darkness and madness that ultimately become the narrator’s downfall.
Aside from the obvious influence of theme on the poem, that is not the only aspect of Poe’s writing that was intended to shape the essence of “The Raven. ” The form, style, and appearance of the poem play a just as important role as anything else in helping the reader grasp the heart of the poem. One of the first things the reader notices is that the poem rhymes, which makes the narrator’s thoughts seem more organized despite his implied lunacy, which in turn makes it easier for the reader to identify with him.
Poe also heavily relied on the use of alliteration throughout the poem, for example “Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before; …” (Poe). The use of alliteration in this poem is very wise because it is so different from the normal vernacular people are used to hearing. Because this is such a change from what people are used to, it gives the prose a wacky aspect that only adds to the ominous tone of the poem. Despite the poem’s mysterious nature, it is surprisingly formulaic; the poem is made up of eighteen stanzas of six lines each.
It can be argued that Poe’s precision would give the text a synthetic feel, however, the poet more than makes up for his meticulousness with overwhelming lyrical prose. All in all, Poe’s electrifying narrative poem is worthy of all the acclaim it has gotten since its initial publication. The poet’s dark and mysterious prose is so beautifully and well written that its ominous feel stays with whomever may read it. From Edgar Allan Poe’s expert execution of literary techniques to his uncanny ability to capture his reader’s attention, this poem is nothing short of perfection.
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