In Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven," for what is the speaker wishing?

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kipling2448 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

What precisely the large black bird that enters the narrator's den or library in Edgar Allan Poe's poem "The Raven" represents is open to interpretation. What we do know, however, is precisely what, or for whom the narrator pines as he sits alone, "weak and weary" in this presumably cozy little room. He laments the loss of a woman who was very dear to him. Read the following passages from The Raven:

"Eagerly I wished the morrow;—vainly I had sought to borrow From my books surcease of sorrow—sorrow for the lost Lenore— For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore—"

. . .

"Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing, Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortals ever dared to dream before; But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token, And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, “Lenore!” This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, “Lenore!”— Merely this and nothing more"

The narrator is lamenting, or mourning, the loss of Lenore, the "rare and radiant maiden" with whom we can presume he was very much in love, and whose departure or death he very well may have caused. Throughout Poe's poem we feel the absence of this woman, and it is for her return that the narrator desperately hopes. Whether the narrator is indeed responsible for Lenore's death or departure we can only guess, but "The Raven" includes references to ancient Greek mythology, most notably the "bust of Pallas" upon which the raven perches. The genesis of the mythological figure of Pallas is itself uncertain, but given the context in which this reference appears, it could refer to story of Athena, a seriously important goddess, who killed Pallas in defense of her honor. In any event, the narrator of Poe's famous poem wishes for the return, however unlikely, of Lenore. If nothing else, such a development would possibly spare the narrator the eternity in Hell he fears await -- a development he comes to believe is predicted by the bird's appearance.