In the first stanzas of the poem, the narrator is tired, unable to find rest in sleep because of his constant "sorrow for the lost Lenore."
Upon hearing the noise, he is, at first, uncertain that he is actually hearing something. Upon deciding that there really is "a tapping" at the door, he is excited in anticipation of a visitor and apologetic that he did not answer it more quickly.
Finding nothing when he opens the door, he is left "wondering, fearing, Doubting, dreaming." Trying to find some explanation, wanting to believe it is somehow a message from Lenore, he responds to the renewed "tapping" with determination to locate the source of the noise. To his amazement and initial amusement, he discovers the source of the noise is a raven who not only knocks at the door but can speak.
Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
"Doubtless," said I, "what it utters is its only stock and store,...
But the Raven still beguiling all my fancy into smiling,
The narrator is perplexed but still at ease as he begins to consider what meaning there might be in the raven's one word. As he thinks further, however, puzzlement changes to pleading as the narrator comes to see the raven as a "Prophet" capable of bringing him some release from grief and reassurance that he will be reunited with Lenore at some point in the future.
With the repeated "Nevermore" as his only response from the raven, the narrator becomes frantic, ordering the raven to
Get thee back into the tempest and the Night's Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken!- quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!
In the final stanza, the narrator is resigned and defeated, enduring the continued presence of the raven and his dreadful message that there will be relief of his grief "Nevermore!"