Edgar Allan Poe is famous for using symbolism in his stories and poetry. How could the raven be a symbol in his poem? What clues does Poe give you to imply that it is a symbol rather than a literal...

Edgar Allan Poe is famous for using symbolism in his stories and poetry. How could the raven be a symbol in his poem? What clues does Poe give you to imply that it is a symbol rather than a literal creature?

Expert Answers
rmhope eNotes educator| Certified Educator

For the first half of the poem, the raven seems to be a literal bird that comes into the narrator's chamber when he flings open his window. The man is able to take some pleasure from the unusual visitor, enjoying its flirting flutters and its aristocratic attitude. When he realizes the bird can speak, he begins to consider how it gained that ability, and he sits down to watch the bird as if to enjoy it as entertainment.

But in the twelfth stanza, as the narrator begins "linking fancy unto fancy," the bird becomes for the first time "ominous." In stanza 13, the bird suddenly has the ability to burn into the narrator's "bosom's core" with its "fiery eyes." As the man begins losing touch with reality, thinking he hears the footfalls of angels, he attributes greater powers to the bird, calling it either a prophet or a devil.

When the bird seems to say that the narrator will not see his lost Lenore in the afterlife, the man commands it to "take thy beak from out my heart." This is clearly metaphorical or symbolic language, not literal. In the final stanza, the statement that the raven "never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting" must also be symbolic because a literal bird would not remain motionless in one place for such an extended period of time. The description of the raven's eyes as "seeming" like a demon's again points to a symbolic meaning, while the narrator's soul being held captive by the bird's shadow is the final proof that the bird is no longer merely a bird. The raven morphs from a real bird into a representation of the dark recesses of the narrator's own mind, filled with sorrow, grief, and despair.

Read the study guide:
The Raven

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question