In the poem “The Raven,” Poe uses imagery through the image of the black bird, the raven. The bird’s presence and one word, which Poe references throughout the poem, symbolize death not only literally but also figuratively. A person has literally died, but so has the soul or spirit of the person left to grieve. As a symbol, the raven leaves open to interpretation in the poem its meaning in terms of death, questions of the supernatural, and an afterlife.
For example, the raven says “nevermore” several times in the course of the poem. This one word builds suspense because its meaning can be interpreted as changing each time the word is uttered toward a dramatic climax. It is ambiguous as to whether the bird is literally saying “nevermore” or if the word is simply reverberating again and again in the tortured mind of the narrator.
The imagery is evoked of a bird literally saying the word while the actions of the poem take place in the narrator’s recollection of Lenore. Yet, the repetition of “nevermore” by the bird also works figuratively as an imagination by the narrator through grieving for her and contemplating an end to life with the visitor, who could be interpreted as the grim reaper. As such, the word “nevermore” certainly refers to Lenore, yet also foreshadows doom for the narrator.