How does the significance of the word "Nevermore" change each time it is spoken? Though the speaker says his beloved will be nameless, he uses her name in lines 28-29, 82-83, and 94-95. How does...

How does the significance of the word "Nevermore" change each time it is spoken? Though the speaker says his beloved will be nameless, he uses her name in lines 28-29, 82-83, and 94-95. How does the raven's answer to the speaker's queries keep reminding you of her?

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favoritethings | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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The significance of the raven's one word, "'Nevermore,'" changes each time he speaks it because it is always in reference to a different question or demand from the narrator. First, the narrator demands to know the bird's name, and when the bird answers, it sounds as though his name is actually "'Nevermore'" (line 48). Next, the speaker insists that the bird is going to leave him just as "'Other friends have flown before,'" and when the bird replies, it seems like he means that he will never leave the narrator (58). Then, the speaker implores himself to "'forget this lost Lenore,'" and when the raven responds, it sounds as though the narrator will never be able to forget his lost love (83).  Next, the narrator desires to know if there is "'balm in Gilead,'" a cure for his pain or for death in general, and the bird's response sounds like there is not and never will be.  Then, the speaker asks if he will ever see Lenore again in heaven, "'the distant Aidenn,'' and the raven's one word sounds like a negative answer (93). Finally, the speaker demands that the raven "'take [his] form from off [the narrator's] door,'" and the bird's reply seems to mean that he will never leave the narrator's home (101).

When the speaker says that his love is a "radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore,'" he seems to imply that her name, in life, was not actually Lenore but that, in death, this is what she will be called (11). In Greek, Lenore means "light" or "pity," and given how often darkness is referenced in the poem, she is thus contrasted with the narrator's dark reality after the loss of her life. When the black raven comes, at dark midnight, in the darkest month of the year (December), and finally casts his dark "shadow" over the narrator's soul, it all seems a dramatic contrast with the bright and "radiant" Lenore (107, 11). And when the raven speaks, again and again, a word that enriches this contrast as well as repeats the final sounds of her name (via rhyme), it seems to say again and again that she is lost forever, that death is permanent, and that the narrator will live without her light forevermore. "Nevermore" is as bleak and dark in its connotation as are midnight and December, and so it continues to recall the contrast between the narrator's darkened mortality and Lenore's radiant eternal life with the angels.