Edgar Allan Poe is one of the world’s most famous writers and the major figure of the world’s literature. He is best known for his great poetry and short stories, and his name is associated with fear and melancholy. Edgar Poe has written many great works that became classic and are studied throughout the world. The poem “The Raven” written by Edgar Allan Poe is one the greatest and best-known poems of the author. “The Raven” was an instant success, which quickly drew international attention and became one of the most famous poems which have ever been written after the poem’s publication in the book The Raven and Other Poems in 1845. Moreover, it became one of the best-known and most read poems in American literature. It is a narrative poem, which is a beautiful and unique piece of writing, namely because of its stylized language, musicality, and supernatural atmosphere that Edgar Poe is famous for. The poem "The Raven" is the most famous poem of the author not only due to its great immediate popularity but also because Poe wrote the essay describing how he composed this poem. In "The Philosophy of Composition," Poe described how he composed "The Raven" as if it was a mathematical equation. His essay reveals important aspects of the form of the poem, such as the narrator’s tendency to make meaning by asking the raven self-distracting questions, the role of incantatory rhyme and the conception of theatrical performance. Edgar Poe used the setting of the poem, literary devices, symbolical features and motifs to emphasize the mystery of the main character. In this paper, I will argue that Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “The Raven” is a great and unique piece of writing, which perfectly reveals a theme of human’s sorrow and tendency to self-torture through the use of appropriate literary techniques and devices, as well as the stylistic devices.

The poem tells the reader a story of a grieving narrator, who is sitting in his chamber by the dying fire in his chair in December and wearily studying the “forgotten lore” in an attempt to forget about the death of the woman he loved, whose name is Lenore. The narrator is unnamed and appears in a gothic setting. The choice of words such as “bleak December,” “dying fire,” lonely apartment and night help to create this gothic, mystical atmosphere (Poe, “The Raven”). While sitting in his chair and reading the book of “lore,” the narrator hears the sound of tapping at his door, which makes him anxious. After the narrator opens the door, he sees nothing there, and the only word he hears is "Lenore," the name of his beloved woman. Later the tapping repeats; however, this time, the sound is louder, and the narrator realizes that the sound is coming from the window. The man opens the window, and suddenly a raven flutters in the chamber and perches on the bust of Pallas, which is above the door. The raven amuses the narrator, and he asks the bird its name. Surprisingly, the raven answers, and the only words it says is “Nevermore.” Shocked by the bird’s ability to talk, the narrator expresses his fear that the raven will leave him in the morning, “as hopes have flown before.” However, the raven answers again “Nevermore,” so the man smiled and, interested in the bird’s croaking, pulled up the chair closer to the door where the bird was sitting. The pillows and the chair where Lenore used to sit evoked painful memories of her death. The narrator sees that the bird can say only one word, but he continues to talk to the raven and asks bird questions "Is there balm in Gilead?”, “Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn, It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore — Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore.”, “Take thy form from off my door!” (Poe, “The Raven”). However, the only answer the raven keeps repeating is "Nevermore!" The feelings of the narrator are changing from amusement to hopefulness, anger and utter despair (Hanna 2011). Finally, the narrator understands that it is useless to communicate with the bird and his soul will never be free again and lifted from the shadow of the bird on the floor.

Edgar Allan Poe's poem "The Raven" is written in the form of a ballad. It consists of eighteen stanzas, which comprise six lines each. The poem has a clearly emphatic meter and rhymes. "The Raven" is a narrative of the man who faced with the death of the woman whom he loved. He compulsively creates a self-distracting meaning of the word "Nevermore," which the raven keeps repeating, until he is finally driven to despair by the loss of his beloved woman Lenore and the hope to meet her in another world. The poem is narrated from the first-person point of view. It conveys the narrator's shift from sorrowful calmness and composure to the nervous collapse caused by the mysterious ebony bird. In the first seven stanzas, the setting and the melancholic state of mind of the main hero are well described and established. The narrator is tired of his grief, so he tries to distract himself from his sorrow by reading the book of "lore."

The poem is highly valued for its dramatic and melodic qualities, which help to emphasize the theme of sorrow and make it more expressive. Edgar Allan Poe used the trochaic octameter in “The Raven.” It has eight stressed-unstressed feet with two syllables in every line. The author made the poem really melodic by using the trochaic octameter together with the AB-CB-BB end rhyme scheme, internal rhyme that is often used by the author, and repetition of the words “nothing more” and “nevermore”. The sound “O” often used in this poem, for example in words such as “nevermore” and “Lenore”. This helps to create the lonely, melancholic sound and establish the general atmosphere of the poem. The poem has circular sense. It is achieved with the help of the repetition of the word “nevermore.” This repetition is also important for achieving, as the writer says, the unity of effect, where every line and every word in the poem adds to its larger meaning (Poe, “The Philosophy of Composition”). Edgar Poe also widely used alliteration, which is the repetition of consonant sounds, in his poem. The sounds /s/ and /t/ are the most frequently repeated (Hanna). Thus, they appear 78 and 99 times in the poem respectively (Hanna). In addition, the writer had a very extensive vocabulary. In his poem "The Raven," he used the ancient language as well as the poetic one, as he decided that it would be appropriate for the poem's meaning.

There are two primary entities featured in the poem that help to reveal its main topic. The fist one is the narrator, a grieving young man, and the second one is the raven, who evokes a range of emotions in the man by its foreboding appearance. The fist stanza of the poem ends with the benign "nothing more" - the explanation of the narrator of what is it knocking on the door. Every next stanza ends with a rhythmic refrain to this phrase, and the last stanzas end with the response of the raven “Nevermore!” The phrase is stressed using the cohesive device of repetition as well as by the rhyme pattern, where all the stanzas are ending in “-more” (Hanna). This phrase becomes increasingly ominous with every stanza, and with every refrain, the intensity of emotions rises.

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The main theme of the poem is the devotion to the lost woman, which is incredibly strong. The narrator is grieving and facing a conflict between his desire to forget the woman whom he loved and lost and the striving to save the memories of her and keep them in his heart. The narrator’s affection transcends the boundaries of death and life (Abu-Melhim). The man even gets pleasure when he focuses on his grief and loss. This can be traced throughout the poem, especially when despite knowing that “nevermore” is the only word that the raven can say, the narrator keeps asking it questions.

“Doubtless,” said I, “what it utters is its only stock and store

Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster

Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore —

Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden bore

Of ‘Never — nevermore’.”. (Poe, “The Raven”)

In these lines, the author shows the people’s tendency toward self-torture. The questions that the narrator asks are purposely aimed to incite the feeling of loss, especially taking into consideration that the raven gives only one answer. It is unclear from the poem if the bird understands human language and knows what the narrator says, or it is it just an attempt to cause some reaction in the man.

 

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Other themes are found throughout the poem apart from the tragic death of the young woman and the bereft of the narrator. The theme of harbinger of the sorrow, the devil-beast in the form of the raven is also revealed in Poe's poem (Abu-Melhim). The bird in the poem embodies grief that is caused by death and loneliness. It also refers to the author's painful experience of losing his mother at a very young age (Abu-Melhim). One more theme revealed in the poem is the human's need to search for the meaning in everything, even if there is no meaning. The author shows the reader that the narrator understands that the bird's speech has no meaning. Nevertheless, the narrator tries to imbue raven's meaningless answers with significance. The narrator tries to convince himself that the word that the bird keeps repeating is the answer for his questions and even has some hidden meaning. “Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil!—prophet still, if bird or devil!” (Poe, “The Raven”). Additionally, there is the question that may be traced throughout the poem. The author did not reveal whether there was something mysterious and supernatural in this situation that provoked the feeling of fear, or it was the feeling of fear that influenced the perception and provoked the illusion of supernatural powers. It is not clear whether the narrator was so scared that it led to the illusion of a mysterious event, or there was something strange that scared the man.

The topic of the poem is the sense of loss without the hope to see the lost beloved person ever again. In the essay “The Philosophy of Composition,” the author says that he aimed to elevate the soul and that the best way to reach this goal is to use the presentation of beauty in his poem. (Poe, “The Philosophy of Composition”). The author believed that beauty is best perceived by readers in the sad mood. Besides, Edgar Poe believed that the topic of the beautiful woman’s death is one of the most poetic topics in the world and one of the most mournful things that a writer may describe in his works.

Edgar Poe used several symbols in “The Raven,” which helped to produce a high-level poem and a unique piece of writing. The main symbol in the poem is the raven. This symbol is the most obvious. The poem never reveals whether it is a real raven or a hallucination, a devil or just a bird, and whether this character is good or bad. Poe decided that it would be the most effective to use a non-reasoning creature in his poem when he decided to repeat the word “nevermore” in every refrain. The author decided that as human can reason to answer the question, it would make little sense to use human in his poem (Poe, “The Philosophy of Composition”). Edgar Poe cleverly chose the raven, as this bird may utter a few syllables, which are well chosen. It is important to mention that the meaning of the only word repeated by the raven throughout the poem – "Nevermore" – is changing depending on the question asked by the narrator.

As it was already mentioned, the author decided to reveal the theme of human's predisposition to self-torture, so it was important for Poe that the answer for the questions was predictable or already known. Besides, this helped to show the human's way of interpreting things and signs that do not bear any real meaning. The author also considered using a parrot instead of the raven but then decided that the parrot would not be suitable for the poem because of the poem’s melancholy and a mysterious tone. In addition, the raven appeared more suitable for the poem because of the symbolism of raven as a devil-bird (Poe, “The Philosophy of Composition”). The fact that the bird is allowed to stay in the chamber and stimulate the narrator's feeling of despair again shows the reader the desire of the narrator to nurture grief. In the end of the poem, Edgar Poe shows the reader that the bird has become a resident of the narrator's chamber as well as his soul. The last lines of the poem, “And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor/ Shall be lifted-nevermore!” reveal the fact that the main hero gets some kind of pleasure in the gloom caused by the presence of raven (Poe, “The Raven”).

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One more obvious symbol in the poem is the bust of Pallas Athena. For some reason, the raven decided to perch exactly on the bust of the goddess of wisdom.

But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door—

Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door—

Perched, and sat, and nothing more. (Poe, “The Raven”)

The reasons for this were to make the hero believe that the bird was not just repeating the only word it knew, but really spoke from wisdom, and to emphasize the narrator's scholarship. According to Edgar Poe, one more reason why he used the bust of Pallas in his poem is the "sonorousness of the word, Pallas” (Poe, “The Philosophy of Composition”). Taking into consideration the author’s note, it is hard to establish the main reason for using this symbol in his poem.

The night’s Plutonian shore is another symbol in the poem. This symbol is the reference to the Roman god of the underworld named Pluto. “Get thee back into the tempest and the Night’s Plutonian shore!”( Poe, “The Philosophy of Composition”). The bird's comportment surprises the narrator, and he accuses the raven of coming from the "night's Plutonian shore," which is the place between the two worlds – the world of the living people and the world of the dead.

There are also a few less obvious but equally important symbols in the poem. These are “midnight” and “December” in the first and the second verses: “Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,” “Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December” (Poe, “The Raven”). These two words, midnight and December, both are the symbols of the end of something and the beginning of something new, some change that is to happen. They may also refer to the New Year’s Eve, as it is the time which is usually associated with a change.

One more symbol used in the poem is the dead woman Lenore. The lack of details about this woman makes her a symbol. There is no description of this woman in the poem and her relation to the narrator. Lenore represents the idolized love, truth and beauty. Moreover, this woman is a symbol of the hope for the better world. The angelic description of Lenore means that she may also be the symbol of heaven or something pure and innocent.

The place where the actions took place in the poem is the chamber. The chamber is the symbol that is used to emphasize the loneliness of the narrator and his feeling of the sorrow caused by the loss of the woman he loved, Lenore. Poe mentioned that he used the chamber in his poem because the close circumscription of space was important for creating the effect of an insulated incident (Poe, “The Philosophy of Composition”). The effect of beauty in the poem is created by the description of a richly furnished chamber that reminds the main hero of his beloved woman, who once was sitting in the chair with beautiful cushions.

This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining

On the cushion’s velvet lining that the lamp-light gloated o’er,

But whose velvet-violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o’er,

She shall press, ah, nevermore! (Poe, “The Raven”)

The mention of the tempest outside emphasizes the loneliness and isolation of the narrator and helps to show a sharp contrast between the tempestuous night outside and the coziness and calm atmosphere in the narrator's chamber. All together, the symbols that Poe used in the poem made an important impact on creating a mystical atmosphere, adding important details to the main topic.

Edgar Poe also used allusions in his poem for supporting the poem’s atmosphere and revealing some hidden nuances. The narrator in the poem is a scholar. This fact is not clearly stated in the poem Thus, the author says that the main hero is reading the book of “lore.” An allusion to devil also appears in the poem. The raven is often called the “devil bird.” Additionally, the narrator states “Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil!—prophet still, if bird or devil!” (Poe, “The Raven”). One more allusion to the Greek mythology is the bust of Pallas Athena in the narrator’s chamber. Moreover, Edgar Poe mentioned this fact in his book “The Philosophy of Composition.” The allusion of Pallas is a little ironical because the raven, which does not seem to be a very wise creature, perches on the bust of the goddess of wisdom.

The use of stylistic devices helped to make the poem more expressive. In addition, it helped to make the poem more sophisticated and emphasize the main topic. Edgar Poe also used similes, personification and metaphor in his poem. In the line “And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming,/ And the lamp-light o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor,” the author compares the eyes of the bird to a demon, which is an example of metaphor used in the poem (Poe, “The Raven”). Besides, from the lines “Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night’s Plutonian shore!/ Quoth the Raven “Nevermore,” it becomes obvious to the reader that the raven can speak. Giving the bird a voice or ability to speak is personification (Poe, “The Raven”). There are also many examples of similes used in the poem. In the lines “While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,/ As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door,” the author compares the bird’s tapping with the tapping of the human. In the lines “Till I scarcely more than muttered “Other friends have flown before — / On the morrow, he will leave me, as my Hopes have flown before” the author compares the possible departure of the raven with the narrator’s hopes that had left him. The use of similes, personification, and metaphors helped to make the poem more interesting, expressive and memorable.

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The poem “The Raven” has not caused equally generous acclaim of the critics throughout the history. While the readers enjoyed the poem, which caused the excitement among them because of its emotional intensity and dramatic imagery, the critics focused their attention on the poem’s technical issues of the verse, namely internal rhyme and parallelism, and absurdities in the author’s imagery and inconsistency. In addition, the critics constantly accused the author of taking the ideas for his poem from other works. One of such works is the novel of Charles Dickens Barnaby Rudge, where a talking raven appears (Abu-Melhim). The origin of the poem and writing process were explained in the essay “The Philosophy of Composition", written by Edgar Poe, which also became the subject of attention of the critics. Today, "The Raven" is still often examined by the literary critics, theorists, and scholars. The poem is studied to reveal some new nuances of its interpretation, the understanding its influence on the literary theories and movements, such as rationalism and surrealism, and the poem’s impact on the literary culture. Though "The Raven" was often criticized, it is considered to be one of most characteristic writings of the author as well as Poe’s deft command of the language. Additionally, the author is highly regarded for his original and unique imagination. The readers loved the poem, which turned Edgar Poe into a national celebrity very fast. The poem became associated with the author, so the readers gave Poe a nickname "the Raven".

Edgar Allan Poe wrote a great poem, which gained the worldwide popularity and made its author one of the most famous poets in the world. The poem reveals the unique Poe's style, which is associated with mystery and fear. The author used an original style of writing, unusual poetic form, and structure. Allan Poe successfully used diverse literary techniques and devices in his poem to make it interesting, exciting, frightening, and unusual. The poem has an alluring mix of mystery and accessibility. This helps the poem to earn reader’s enduring affection. “The Raven” is a remarkable piece of writing that portrays a forsaken lover clinging with his desperate desire to grieve, as grief is all he has after the death of his beloved. A strange raven will always be present in the narrator’s heart, and his soul will never escape the shadow of the bird. The poem is definitely Edgar Allan Poe’s masterpiece, and it would impress any reader.

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