Please summarize the main points of Edgar Allan Poe's poem "The Raven".

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carol-davis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” is a narrative lyrical poem.  The poet creates the mood with his eerie scenes filled with noises and a bird that represents death.  The poem’s story features three characters: the young man; the raven; and the dead Lenore. The setting is the nameless young man’s room.  The time is midnight in December, and, it is a stormy, windy night. 

The young man has been studying, trying to think about something else. He has not been sleeping because of his longing for his dead lover, Lenore, and his sorrow has almost overtaken him.

The protagonist hears things: rapping, tapping rustling.  The fire creates images that seem ghostlike.   

These sounds have made him feel such terror.  He gathers his courage thinking that there is a late visitor at the door.  When he opens it, there is nothing there. His heart and soul are on fire with fear.

He decides that the tapping is coming from the window which he opens thinking that it is just the wind. In steps a Raven very boldly. It flies to a bust of Athena over his door. The black bird lures the man into smiling.  He asks the bird his name; the bird answers "Nevermore."

Proudly, the man thinks that his has never happened to another person. He believes that the bird’s name is Nevermore; then, he realizes that the bird just says the word.

At first, the man is intrigued by the bird. He almost feels blessed that the bird chose his room to come into. The bird seems alone and with much emotion he says the one word: Nevermore.

The man again becomes depressed. He feels that the bird will leave him just as all of his friends have left him.  The bird states Nevermore.

Shocked by the repetition of the word, he thinks that the bird’s owner has taught him to say the word.  He feels the owner must also be unhappy to teach the bird such a sad word.

Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird, and bust and door;
Then… I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore –
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt and ominous bird of yore
Meant in croaking "Nevermore."

The protagonist wonders why this scary bird is in his room saying this odd word. The bird says nothing; however, the young man begins to feel as though the bird’s eyes are burning into his inner being.    

Suddenly, he feels as though the odor and air in the room is thick with the perfume of Lenore.  He believes now that the Raven has been sent by some angels to keep reminding him of his lost love.  He wants to drink nepenthe, which is an anti-depressant. Of course, the Raven says Nevermore.

The man asks the Raven is there any help for his suffering… the Raven states Nevermore.

Now the man calls the Raven a Prophet of evil... he asks the Raven if Lenore is in the arms of the angels in Heaven… the Ravens says Nevermore.

Of course, this enrages the man. He tells the Raven to get out of his room and back into the night, to not leave even a feather and to pull its beak out of the man’s heart. The Raven answers Nevermore.

And the Raven does not move but his shadow is thrown onto the floor; the man’s soul seems to blend in with the bird’s shadow.  With the end of the poem, the man descends into insanity.

What an inventive writer Edgar Allan Poe was!