Homework Help

In "The Raven" how does the narrator's emotional state change during the poem?

user profile pic

lancey | Student, College Freshman | eNotes Newbie

Posted March 8, 2009 at 3:48 AM via web

dislike 2 like

In "The Raven" how does the narrator's emotional state change during the poem?

3 Answers | Add Yours

user profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted March 8, 2009 at 4:21 AM (Answer #1)

dislike 3 like

In "The Raven," the speaker's emotional state heightens as he becomes more and more engrossed in self-torture as he is agitated by the raven's persistence in perching upon the bust and its haunting repetition of the harrowing word, "Nevermore."  This word finds immediate echo in the melancholy heart of the man who has recently lost his beloved Lenore. 

In writing about his poem, Poe remarks,

It will be observed that the words 'from out my heart' involve the first metaphorical expression in the poem.  They, with the answer 'Nevermore,' dispose the mind to seek a moral in all that has been previously narrated.

While at first the narrator believes that the bird has been sent by angels to offer him respite in his grief, the repetition of the single word brings with it a torment of remembrance that overtakes the speaker as until he believes that the bird "or fiend" has come from a tempest "and the Night's Plutonian shore!"  He begs the raven to

...quit the bust above my door!/Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!

Then, when the raven says "Nevermore," a new connotation of this word enters the speaker's mind.  Despairing of any relief from his grief, he says,

And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor/Shall be lifted--nevermore!

user profile pic

mrs-campbell | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted March 8, 2009 at 4:22 AM (Answer #2)

dislike 1 like

He starts off just sitting in his chair, reading a book, and he describes himself as "weak and weary."  He was so weary that he didn't even get up to answer the knocking at his door.  He then describes, in more detail, his emotional state.  He is longing for his lost love, a bit depressed, and had sought an escape from that longing in his book.  He says, "eagerly I wished the morrow," and he has "sorrow for the lost Lenore".

But then, he starts to become alarmed and scared.  He says the knocking "filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before" and he gathers courage to go open the door.  He stands there, describing his emotional state.  He is "wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming."  He is really disturbed now, and getting a bit freaked out.  He stays pretty scared.  Later he opens the door again "with many a flirt and flutter" of his heart.

Once the raven appears, his fear turns to awe and amazement as it speaks the words, "Nevermore."  He says, "much I marvelled", and he was "startled much that the stillness was broken".  He then turns ponderous.  He sits down and "betook myself to linking Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore—...Meant in croaking 'Nevermore.'"  But then, he gets anxious and angry that he can't figure out what the bird means.  He demands to know, he yells, he frets, "implores", "shrieks", to no avail.

So, throughout the course of the poem he goes from weary, to terrified, to startled and awed, to ponderous, to angry and demanding.  I hope that helps!

user profile pic

engtchr5 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

Posted March 8, 2009 at 4:49 AM (Answer #4)

dislike -1 like

The poem unfolds in such a way that the author or narrator progresses from mild annoyance to absolute madness or insanity. He, at first, is rather intrigued by the bird, until he realizes that the bird's one-word vocabulary (Nevermore) is merely a reflection of his own tortured grief. It is the repetition of this word that drives our narrator insane by the poem's end, as he recalls and deeply laments the loss of his one love, Lenore.

Join to answer this question

Join a community of thousands of dedicated teachers and students.

Join eNotes