Poetry

The Raven

“The Raven” begins when a grief-stricken man contemplating his lost-love Lenore is woken suddenly by a rapping at his door. He is drawn to his window with a similar knocking, and upon opening it, a Raven flies into his study. The man repeatedly asks the bird questions—what is its name? what is its purpose? what is it?—but the bird only responds, “Nevermore.” The man continues to ask questions though he knows the answer he will find, suggesting that the poem explores grief as a tension between the desire to forget and the need to remember. In this way the repetition of both the questions and the bird’s predicted answer demonstrate how the poem indulges and even takes pleasure in the feeling of loss. The poem’s strict, internal rhyme scheme and use of alliteration further underscore this theme of an obsessive need to repeat. Poe’s musical style and supernaturally chilling language create not only an eerie atmosphere, but also the very feeling of frantic madness into which the character ultimately descends. Poe’s poetic power comes from his ability to jump off the page and draw the reader into the room he describes until ever so faintly you can hear the raven whisper, “Nevermore.”

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