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In Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “The Raven,” the narrator responds to his mysterious visitor by sinking into an ever-greater depth of despair. Sitting alone in his study on the proverbial dark and stormy night, reading “a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,” the narrator is interrupted by a tapping on his door. His initial reaction is to simply mutter “Tis some visitor . . . Only this and nothing more.”
As the poem progresses, additional information is provided, mainly that the narrator is lamenting the loss of a female about whom he apparently cared very deeply, specifically, “the lost Lenore . . . the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore.” With some contemplation, he continues to listen to the tapping on his chamber door with increasing mystification, his imagination conjuring up images of dread (“fantastic terrors never felt before”) until at least he rises from his chair to peek out the door. Convinced he hears the word “Lenore” whispered in his direction, repeats his lost female companion’s name, but receives no reply. Finally opening his window and allowing in the large black bird that was responsible for the tapping, the narrator is at a loss as to the meaning or purpose of this intrusion. Efforts at communicating with the bird prove fruitless, as the only response he receives is “Nevermore.”
As “The Raven” continues, the narrator becomes increasingly exasperated with the uncommunicable bird and the mystery surrounding its appearance. Unwilling to discount the possibility that the raven’s presence is somehow related to Lenore’s departure, the narrator continues to query the bird, his descent into madness become more apparent with each stanza. Finally, he shouts in desperation:
“Prophet! Said I, “thing of evil! – prophet still, if bird or devil! . . . On this home by Horror haunted – tell me truly, I implore!” But he receives only the same reply: “Quoth the Raven, ‘Nevermore’.”
“The Raven” ends with the narrator an emotional wreck, the bird continuing to perch atop the bust of Pallas, Greek goddess of wisdom.
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