Character Analysis in The Raven

The narrator is depressed and mourning for his lost love, Lenore. His tendency to jump to radical conclusions and melancholic tone show that this narrator is almost crazy with grief. He has an overactive imagination that becomes excited over rustling curtains, and creates an entire narrative for the bird.

The Raven 16
"nevermore..."   (The Raven)

The final "nevermore" in this poem comes from the narrator. The narrator gives over to the bird and adopts a fatalistic attitude: he is resigned to a future trapped within his sadness and imprisoned by his loss of Lenore.

"Nevermore..."   (The Raven)

Nevermore, which the narrator originally interpreted as the Raven's name here becomes a menacing threat: the narrator will never forget his lost Lenore, he will never recover from his grief. Notice that the meaning of "nevermore" underscores the narrator's decline into madness.

"gloated..."   (The Raven)

"Gloated" in this context means to gaze with malignant pleasure, to feast one's eyes upon. Notice that the narrator personifies his surroundings with words that make them menacing. The narrator imagines everything as hostile, and demonstrates his feelings of vulnerability.

"still beguiling my sad fancy ..."   (The Raven)

The narrator is intrigued by the Raven, amused slightly out of his depression by his interest in the bird. Juxtaposing this happy feeling with the melancholy contemplated in the previous stanza suggests that the narrator is experiencing an unstable kind of happiness akin to mania.

" unhappy master..."   (The Raven)

The narrator realizes that the bird can only say this one word from rote recitation. However, rather than dismissing his ability to speak as something learned, he creates a story to explain the Raven's word. He imagines a miserable master who repeated this word enough times that the bird learned it. Notice that the story the narrator ascribes to the bird's former master mirrors his own.

"Nevermore..."   (The Raven)

Notice that the first repetition of "Nevermore" comes from the narrator not the Raven. The narrator immediately internalizes the word and repeats it in his own mind. This suggests that the narrator is susceptible to fantastical thinking.

"name..."   (The Raven)

The narrator first interprets the repetitive line as the bird's name. Nevermore, the state of being no longer, at no future time, or never again, recalls the narrator's first description of Lenore being "nameless here for evermore" because she has died. This suggests that the Raven is either an embodiment of his lost lover or death incarnate. The narrator sees the Raven is a symbol of loss and mortality.

"Perched..."   (The Raven)

Perched means both seated on a perch and to be presumptuous and assertive. The narrator ascribes power to the Raven in repeating this word three times. The Raven reflects the narrator's unstable mental state and dejected psychological state; he feels powerless against a mere bird.

"obeisance..."   (The Raven)

Obeisance is the respectful acknowledgement of one's superior. Notice that the narrator immediately attributes human characteristics to this bird, even before it speaks. Because one would not normally expect an animal to bow or perform social customs upon entering a chamber, this expectation reveals the narrator's unstable mental state.

"implore..."   (The Raven)

This long and polite apology demonstrates two things about the narrator. First, the narrator's politeness and social etiquette suggest that he is a member of the upper class. Second, the speaker is nervously prattling to whomever he thinks is outside the door. This suggests that he is nervous and afraid of whomever, or whatever is on the other side of the door.

"till his songs one burden bore..."   (The Raven)

Disturbed by the way the Raven appears to have intentionally disagreed with him, the narrator rationalizes the repetition of the ominous word “Nevermore”: He imagines that the Raven’s master, having suffered unendurable disasters, taught the bird to utter the single word most expressive of the owner’s sense of hopelessness.

"the distant Aidenn..."   (The Raven)

The narrator’s ultimate question is if he will be reunited with Lenore in “Aidenn,” a poetic spelling of Eden, after he dies. The contrast between his self-description and Lenore reveals how lowly the narrator regards himself and how highly he regards his memory of Lenore.

"Tell me what thy lordly name is..."   (The Raven)

The first seven stanzas establish the narrator’s melancholic, impressionable state of mind. Now, the narrator playfully asks the raven its name, as if to reassure himself that it portends nothing ominous. However, although what the raven says initially has little relevance or meaning, the narrator is sobered by the bird’s forlorn utterance and begins to try and rationalize it.

"Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling..."   (The Raven)

At first, the narrator tries to interpret the bird as a source of humor. However, his failure to continue to do so helps establish the prevailing tone. Notice how the narrator’s choice of words when addressing the raven become more intense and extreme as the mood of the poem darkens to reflect the growing misery of the narrator.

"Thrilled me—filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before..."   (The Raven)

The notion that the rustling of the curtains thrills the weary and depressed narrator is perhaps a little odd. However, considering the time of night and his current mental state, it's very possible that Poe is implying that the narrator has a more vivid imagination than is good for him, especially considering how he soon behaves.

"“Lenore!”..."   (The Raven)

By whispering the name of the deceased Lenore, the narrator reveals the extent of his depression and how her loss has so affected him. This perhaps explains the reason why the initial rustling of the curtains and tapping on the door provoked such a reaction within him.