List some of the themes found in "The Raven" by Edgar Allan Poe.

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carol-davis | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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The unique aspect of “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe comes from its genre: poetry.  This is a horror story but in the form of a poem.  To add more interest, the poem was written in 1845.  It is interesting to think that even in the middle of the nineteenth century people like to be scared.

The confrontation between the raven and the nameless narrator creates an atmosphere of evil, remorse, loneliness, and death. As the man sits in his room languishing over his lost love, his privacy is invaded by this strange black bird that seeks harbor from the storm.  If the raven is real and not an hallucination, then he probably has escaped his cage. He has been taught one word: nevermore.

Thematically, the poem abounds with contemporary concepts. Evaluating the human mind’s ability to cope with loss pervades the poem’s atmosphere.  The narrator suffers from the loss of his love Lenore. His loneliness has debilitated him.  He is depressed, spiritually overwrought, and emotionally over loaded. The raven’s repetition of the word nevermore indicates that the speaker may have crossed the line to insanity.  Life is moving on without the narrator; but in the narrator's mind,  the raven will never leave him because it understands the dark side of the human mind.

In literature, the raven represents evil and death. When the bird enters the man’s chamber, the narrator reacts by pulling up a chair and observing the bird.  Self-pityingly, the speaker tries to befriend the bird but feels that he will leave him as others have left him.  The raven brings an important question with him.  Is this real or a hallucination? "Death is one of the few things that cannot be fixed or reversed, and the enormity of it is therefore entirely appropriate for the exaggerated emotions in Poe’s work."

Ghastly grim and ancient Raven wandering from the Nightly shore –
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night's Plutonian shore!"
Quoth the Raven "Nevermore."

The unhappy narrator begins to lose control as the bird seems to have no emotion but repeatedly says the word “nevermore.”  He begins to think that the raven represents a sign from God telling him to forget Lenore. Finally, he asks the raven if he will ever be united with Lenore in heaven; of course, the raven answers, nevermore.

The natural world signifies the man’s lost dreams.  Nature is what it is.  Man can only experience nature; man cannot change nature.  Nature will not intentionally hurt man; however, it will not interfere with his destiny.  The man imagines aggressive natural forces at work against him.  His room has been invaded by darkness, sounds, the wind, and the inclusion of the raven. 

The raven breaks into his world as an arrogant entity. The man’s conflict becomes man versus nature [the raven]. The raven and the rest of the natural world do not want to hurt or destroy the narrator at all. In fact, it is only his growing madness that makes the raven appear evil.


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