The Raven Questions and Answers
by Edgar Allan Poe

The Raven book cover
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How does the narrator's attitude change towards the raven as "The Raven" progresses?

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William Delaney eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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At first the speaker does not take the Raven very seriously. He assumes it is a tame bird that somehow escaped from its owner and is only seeking temporary shelter. He describes it in a facetious manner.

Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he,
But with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door--

He actually smiles at the bird and jokes with it:

Then the ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore...

Tell me what thy lordly name is...

He assumes that the Raven will leave him eventually, and he is still feeling some amusement in the middle of the poem:

But the Raven still beguiling all my sad soul into smiling...

But he begins to speculate about what, if anything, the bird means by ""Nevermore." The narrator is beginning to take the black bird more seriously. The Raven is not a symbol of a lost maiden but a symbol of death and always had been a symbol of death since the saintly days of yore. When we are young we are immortal because we do not know we are mortal. When it occurs to us that some day we are going to die we think it is funny because that event is so far off that the day will never arrive--or maybe somebody will invent an immortality pill before our turn comes! The poem is about the way we view death throughout our lives. At first it seems amusing, then intriguing, then a little frightening, then ominous, then like a big black cloud hanging over us and everyone else, including those we love, and making life seem meaningless and horrible.

The Raven makes the speaker remember his lost Lenore, whom he had hoped to meet again in a later life. Actually the speaker had been half-hoping that the tapping he heard at his window might be the ghost of Lenore, which is why the only word spoken when he looked out the window "was the whispered word, "Lenore?" The name is followed by a question mark to show that the poet is wondering if he is being visited by his dead paramour. When the Raven tells him he will see her "Nevermore," he reacts with anger.

"Prophet!" said I, "thing of evil!--prophet still, if bird or devil--

He asks if there is balm in Gilead? This is a way of asking if there is any truth to the customary, conventional religious answer to the mystery of death, specifically as contained in the Bible. Is there really any hope of resurrection? And the Raven tells him "Nevermore," meaning that death is nothing but eternal...

(The entire section contains 2 answers and 903 words.)

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