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In Edgar Allan Poe's poem "The Raven," how, if at all, do the speaker's feelings evolve?

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mbitang2000 | (Level 2) Honors

Posted October 30, 2011 at 6:02 AM via web

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In Edgar Allan Poe's poem "The Raven," how, if at all, do the speaker's feelings evolve?

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vangoghfan | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted January 7, 2012 at 4:44 AM (Answer #1)

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In Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “The Raven,” the speaker’s feelings alter and develop repeatedly as the poem progresses.  These alterations of feelings might be outlined as follows:

  • At the beginning of the poem, the speaker is feeling “weak and weary” (1) as well as sorrowful (10).
  • Later, after hearing rustling curtains, he feels “fantastic terrors never felt before” (14).
  • Later still, he is curious to know the source of the sounds he hears (19ff).
  • Apparently at one point he feels embarrassed by his preceding reactions (31).
  • Once he discovers the raven, he is full of even greater curiosity and wonder, especially when the raven begins to speak:

Much I marveled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly . . . (49)

  • Later the speaker seems to feel mournful as he assumes that even the raven may eventually leave him (58-60).
  • Later still, the speaker seems confident that he knows why the raven speaks as it does (62).
  • At one point he even seems amused by the raven’s comments: he mentions that the raven is capable of “beguiling all my fancy into smiling” (66).
  • The more time the speaker spends with the bird, the more fascinated he is: he finds himself pondering (“divining”) the meaning of the visit (75).
  • Later he finds himself sensing changes in the literal atmosphere of the room (79).
  • Finally he becomes highly emotional, twice denouncing the raven as a “thing of evil” (85, 92) and twice imploring it to answer his questions (88-89).
  • Sorrow returns in line 93, and a kind of emotional madness appears in line 97.
  • Finally, in the closing stanza, the speaker seems resigned to the raven’s continuing presence.

In short, the speaker goes through many emotions during the course of this poem. He begins in a kind of sorrowful resignation and ends feeling much the same way. The heavy emphasis on personal emotions – especially the highly intense emotions that appear in the final third of the work – helps to mark this work as a typical example of poetic Romanticism in general and of Poe’s heavily dark Romanticism in particular.

 

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