What are 3 man v. man, man v. nature, and man v. self conflicts from Poe's "The Raven"?

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scarletpimpernel eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Three man v. self examples:

1. In the second stanza, the narrator admits that he had to turn to his books to try to combat his overwhelming sorrow for Lenore.  In Lines 9-10, he confesses,

"Vainly I had sought to borrow/ From my books surcease of sorrow . . . for the lost Lenore."

He recognizes that he cannot continue to battle himself over the grief and seeks a benign way (at this point) to end the conflict.

2. The narrator also fights against his own fear.  As he sits in his dark chamber and hears the rapping on his door, he is filled with "fantastic terrors never felt before" (line 14).  Most likely his fear is the result of his loneliness, for there is no one else there to comfort him.

3. At the end of the poem, the narrator's battle for his own sanity represents an effective use of man v. self conflict.  The raven causes the grieving speaker to battle with his own logic, until finally the narrator gives up and says,

"And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor/ Shall be lifted--nevermore!" (lines 107-108).

Three man v. nature examples:

1. The narrator v. the raven is the most obvious example of this conflict in the poem. At first the narrator is intrigued by the appearance of the raven, but as the poem progresses, he resorts to throwing a cushion at the bird, cursing it, and finally giving in to it by allowing it to stay and torment him "forevermore."

2. The setting of the poem is another good example of man v. nature.  Poe, in typical Gothic form, chooses the middle of the night in "bleak December" for the setting.  The time of the year causes the speaker to dwell on days that should be joyful but are not because of Lenore's absence.

3. Finally, one could argue that death itself is a part of man v. nature in this poem.  If life's cycle had not ended for the fair maiden, then the narrator most likely would not have been sitting alone in terror in his chamber.

Three man v. man examples:

1. The narrator v. Lenore--while the reader does not know for certain that Lenore died, she is, nonetheless, no longer a part of the speaker's life.  He calls her "lost," (line 10) and asks if she is in "distant Adienn" (line 93). While the narrator obviously loved Lenore very much, her memory is what caused his depression in the first place.  Because of her, he has shut himself up in his apartment and is afraid to answer the door.

2. The narrator v. unknown visitors--when the narrator first hears the knocking at his door, it is clear that he sees other humans who might interrupt his private grieving over Lenore as threatening and unwelcome.  In Lines 20-21, he thinks,

" 'Sir . . . or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;/ But the fact is I was napping."

He immediately formulates an excuse for not answering the door because he does not know how to act normally around other humans. Just the thought of the uncomfortable encounter causes him anxiety.

3. Finally, the only other somewhat plausible example of man v. man is the narrator's conflict with "angels."  However, this is stretching it. The narrator mentions several times that the angels named Lenore, but near the poem's end, he begins to think of the angels as the senders of the raven to torment him (Line 81).  Again, this is not a very effective example, but since Poe's poem focuses mainly on the psychological darkness that humans often face, man v. man conflict does not play a major role.