How is the poem "The Raven" a psychological study in self-torment?

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literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Edgar Allen Poe's life was filled with the deaths of the women he loved most in his life. Not only did his mother die, his wife (and cousin) Virginia died from consumption (tuberculosis). Poe watched Virginia die a bloody death for five years.

His poem, "The Raven"," is one of his most well-known poems. Given it simple repetition of "Nevermore," it has been a favorite of classrooms and media alike (as in The Simpsons, during a "Treehouse of Terror" Halloween special).

That said, the repetitious nature of the word "nevermore," has led critics to examine the self-torture aspect of the poem. Like Poe, the speaker of the poem laments the death of his beloved. A raven flies into the room, and, in the speaker's mournful state, he turns the bird into a foreseer of the future. The raven tells the speaker that he will never be reunited with his lost love--even in heaven.

The fact that the speaker is so torn apart by the loss of his (or her) beloved speaks to the idea of self-torture. Instead of moving on, the lamenting becomes constant. This is an example of self-torture, failure to accept things as they are and more forward from them.


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