In "The Raven," how does the narrator's emotional state change during the poem?

In "The Raven," the narrator's emotional state changes during the poem by becoming increasingly frantic and desperate as he considers eternity without his "lost Lenore."

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Because the presence of the raven causes the speaker to think of his unknown eternity, potentially without his "lost Lenore," the speaker grows increasingly frantic and forlorn.

In the beginning of the poem, the speaker is "weary" yet at ease. He is comfortable enough that he is nearly asleep when he hears a knock at the door. Curious, he tries to find the source of this sound, and when he opens the door to find only darkness, he thinks that perhaps Lenore has returned to him. Whispering her name into the darkness, the speaker is slightly angered when there is no reply except the echo of his own whisper.

When the raven steps in to the chamber, the speaker's anger grows. He addresses the bird directly, calling him "ghastly" and "grim" as he demands answers about the bird's origins. The bird's presence reminds the speaker that Lenore will never again be found in his chamber, and he grows passionately irate, screaming at the bird and calling it both a "wretch" and a "devil."

The speaker then begins questioning the raven, asking it if he will ever find relief from the pain of losing Lenore. When the bird replies with the one word he is seemingly able to speak, "Nevermore," the speaker "shrieks" at him, commanding the bird to leave. This is the pinnacle of his anger, utterly distraught by the bird's answers and presence.

The last stanza brings a calmer sense of closure to the speaker's emotions. Although the bird's presence is constant, the speaker has seemingly accepted his fate. This stanza lacks the agitation that is present in the preceding stanzas. Instead, the speaker is resigned to the fact that his soul is forever cast into the metaphorical shadows of life.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on December 15, 2020
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The poem unfolds in such a way that the author or narrator progresses from mild annoyance to absolute madness or insanity. He, at first, is rather intrigued by the bird, until he realizes that the bird's one-word vocabulary (Nevermore) is merely a reflection of his own tortured grief. It is the repetition of this word that drives our narrator insane by the poem's end, as he recalls and deeply laments the loss of his one love, Lenore.

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He starts off just sitting in his chair, reading a book, and he describes himself as "weak and weary."  He was so weary that he didn't even get up to answer the knocking at his door.  He then describes, in more detail, his emotional state.  He is longing for his lost love, a bit depressed, and had sought an escape from that longing in his book.  He says, "eagerly I wished the morrow," and he has "sorrow for the lost Lenore".

But then, he starts to become alarmed and scared.  He says the knocking "filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before" and he gathers courage to go open the door.  He stands there, describing his emotional state.  He is "wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming."  He is really disturbed now, and getting a bit freaked out.  He stays pretty scared.  Later he opens the door again "with many a flirt and flutter" of his heart.

Once the raven appears, his fear turns to awe and amazement as it speaks the words, "Nevermore."  He says, "much I marvelled", and he was "startled much that the stillness was broken".  He then turns ponderous.  He sits down and "betook myself to linking Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore—...Meant in croaking 'Nevermore.'"  But then, he gets anxious and angry that he can't figure out what the bird means.  He demands to know, he yells, he frets, "implores", "shrieks", to no avail.

So, throughout the course of the poem he goes from weary, to terrified, to startled and awed, to ponderous, to angry and demanding.  I hope that helps!

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In "The Raven," the speaker's emotional state heightens as he becomes more and more engrossed in self-torture as he is agitated by the raven's persistence in perching upon the bust and its haunting repetition of the harrowing word, "Nevermore."  This word finds immediate echo in the melancholy heart of the man who has recently lost his beloved Lenore. 

In writing about his poem, Poe remarks,

It will be observed that the words 'from out my heart' involve the first metaphorical expression in the poem.  They, with the answer 'Nevermore,' dispose the mind to seek a moral in all that has been previously narrated.

While at first the narrator believes that the bird has been sent by angels to offer him respite in his grief, the repetition of the single word brings with it a torment of remembrance that overtakes the speaker as until he believes that the bird "or fiend" has come from a tempest "and the Night's Plutonian shore!"  He begs the raven to

...quit the bust above my door!/Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!

Then, when the raven says "Nevermore," a new connotation of this word enters the speaker's mind.  Despairing of any relief from his grief, he says,

And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor/Shall be lifted--nevermore!

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