In Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven," explain how the raven mirrors the speaker’s mental state.

In Edgar Allen Poe's work “The Raven,” the raven mirrors the speaker's mental state by appearing to be negative. The bird's constant refrain of “Nevermore” neatly encapsulates the feelings of the speaker as he struggles to stay positive and move on from the death of his beloved.

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The eponymous raven doesn't mean anything by its constant, annoying refrain of “Nevermore.” But because the speaker is in such a fraught mental state, he takes it to heart, reflecting as it does the negativity of his feelings since losing his beloved Lenore.

At first, the speaker is glad to see the bird. It provides a welcome distraction from his grief and sorrow. But once it becomes clear that the raven is going to do nothing but squawk “Nevermore” over and over again, it becomes the living embodiment of the evil that torments the speaker's melancholy soul.

Furthermore, the raven is black, which accurately reflects how the speaker is feeling inside. He's been in a black mood ever since poor Lenore passed away, and so the raven comes to be seen by him as a symbol of his tragic loss. Just as he can't seem to get rid of his grief, with all its nagging insistence, he can't get rid of the sense of doom represented by the raven and its constant refrain of “Nevermore.”

By its very nature, “Nevermore” is a negative expression, and so it perfectly captures the speaker's mood. And as it is expressed over and over again by the raven, it makes that mood considerably worse.

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In "The Raven" by Edgar Allen Poe, the speaker is struggling to deal with the loss of Lenore, his love, who has died. The speaker is holding himself together before the raven arrives. The bird's continuous and negative response to the speaker's inquiries (of "Nevermore") drives the speaker to a desperate mental state.

…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—

Nameless here for evermore. 

The reader has submersed himself in reading to keep his mind off of the loss of Lenore. Soon there is a "rapping" and "tapping" on the door, with no one there; but at the window, a raven enters as the speaker checks to see what is making a new tapping. At first the speaker is amused by the bird's presence, but as he continues to speak to the bird, he becomes more introspective and more depressed. The speaker morosely observes that the bird will surely leave him the next day, just as his friends have abandoned him.

Nothing further then he uttered—not a feather then he fluttered—

Till I scarcely more than muttered, “other friends have flown before—

On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before.”

Then the bird said, “Nevermore.” 

The speaker notes that this time the bird's response actually fits with the speaker's comment: the bird says "Nevermore," meaning it will never leave. But the speaker observes that at some point, if the bird continues uttering the same thing, its response will eventually make sense to some question. Suddenly the speaker picks up a scent that reminds him of his lover and he pleads that he be released from the memory of Lenore; the raven notes that his will not happen. ("Nevermore.")

“Wretch,” I cried, “thy God hath lent thee—by these angels he hath sent thee

Respite—respite and nepenthe, from thy memories of Lenore;

Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore!”

Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”

The speaker begs the raven (that he believes God and the angels have sent to him) to tell him that he can hope to see his beloved in heaven, but the raven says this will never happen either. Distraught and angry, the speaker tells the bird to leave him, but again the bird repeats "Nevermore." As the poem ends, the bird is still with the speaker, on the bust of Pallas.

The bird's continuous responses create a continuous cycle in which the speaker must confront his loss and the realization that the cycle will never be broken. The bird's negative response, which never alters, develops a circular movement where the speaker is confronted over and over with his pain. At the end, he realizes that he has no hope of ever living a life that is any different than the empty one he is struggling through now. The raven's response of hopelessness mirrors the speaker's growing sense that his life will never be free of this cycle of pain—and loss (one of the poem's themes).

And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor

Shall be lifted—nevermore!

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