In Poe's "The Raven," the speaker begins the poem feeling depressed and lonely, mourning the loss of Lenore. In one of the early stanzas, the speaker confesses that he is in his study reading in hopes of distracting himself from his "sorrow for the lost Lenore" (line 10). At this point, the speaker hears a sound and assumes there must be someone knocking at his door. However, it is the raven he hears.
The speaker is at first intrigued by the raven and begins questioning it. However, the raven only ever answers "Nevermore." Some readers might say the speaker is mad and is driven madder over the course of the poem, as seen by his increasingly intense exchanges with the raven. We can definitely see that the speaker becomes obsessed with the raven and thinks it can provide answers to his darkest queries. He asks, for example, whether
" . . . thy God hath lent thee—by these angels he hath sent thee
Respite—respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore;
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore!” (81-83)
Of course, the raven answers, "Nevermore" (84). These lines basically mean that the speaker will not be able to forget Lenore. The same idea continues in the next stanza when the speaker asks the raven, "Is there—is there balm in Gilead?" (89). The speaker desperately wants to know if there will be any peace or healing for him in the aftermath of Lenore's death. The raven's answer proves to him that no, he will not have any relief and will continue to mourn.
At this point, the speaker becomes increasingly angry with the raven, calling it names like "thing of evil" and "devil" (91). He wants the bird to leave now that it has not given him the answers he desires, including the answer to his question of whether he and Lenore will be reunited in the afterlife (92-95). The raven, of course, will never leave. He stays with the speaker, perched on the bust of Athena. The speaker ends the poem by saying that his soul is now trapped in a "shadow" that "Shall be lifted—nevermore!" (108). The speaker's fate is sealed: he will never recover from the death of Lenore, nor from this encounter with the raven.