In Edgar Allan Poe's poem "The Raven," how, if at all, do the speaker's feelings evolve?
In Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “The Raven,” the speaker’s feelings alter and develop repeatedly as the poem progresses. These alterations of feelings might be outlined as follows:
- At the beginning of the poem, the speaker is feeling “weak and weary” (1) as well as sorrowful (10).
- Later, after hearing rustling curtains, he feels “fantastic terrors never felt before” (14).
- Later still, he is curious to know the source of the sounds he hears (19ff).
- Apparently at one point he feels embarrassed by his preceding reactions (31).
- Once he discovers the raven, he is full of even greater curiosity and wonder, especially when the raven begins to speak:
Much I marveled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly . . . (49)
- Later the speaker seems to feel mournful as he assumes that even the raven may eventually leave him (58-60).
- Later still, the speaker seems confident that he knows why the raven speaks as it does (62).
- At one point he even seems amused by the raven’s comments: he mentions that the raven is capable of “beguiling all my fancy into smiling” (66).
- The more time the speaker spends with the bird, the more fascinated he is: he finds himself pondering (“divining”) the meaning of the visit (75).
- Later he finds himself sensing changes in the literal atmosphere of the room (79).
- Finally he becomes highly emotional, twice denouncing the raven as a “thing of evil” (85, 92) and twice imploring it to answer his questions (88-89).
- Sorrow returns in line 93, and a kind of emotional madness appears in line 97.
- Finally, in the closing stanza, the speaker seems resigned to the raven’s continuing presence.
In short, the speaker goes through many emotions during the course of this poem. He begins in a kind of sorrowful resignation and ends feeling much the same way. The heavy emphasis on personal emotions – especially the highly intense emotions that appear in the final third of the work – helps to mark this work as a typical example of poetic Romanticism in general and of Poe’s heavily dark Romanticism in particular.