In "The Raven," how does the significance of the word "nevermore" change each time it is spoken?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

At the beginning of the poem, the word "nevermore" is just a response by the raven to the questions of the narrator.  However, as the "conversation" continutes, the word becomes an expression of the narrator's own feelings, even though it is still spoken by the bird.  The narrator is grief-stricken, and feels that his grief will last eternally.  It will "nevermore" go away.  The word becomes a symbol of the narrator's internal conflict.

Poe, in "The Philosophy of Composition", explained that grief was his chosen theme in this poem.  He chose the word nevermore because of the strong "o" sound, feeling that this particular vowel best expressed a feeling a sadness.

The link for this essay is below.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The word begins as just an amusement to the narrator of the poem - "How clever a bird to be able to say 'nevermore'!"  But then the narrator begins to choose questions to ask the bird, hoping to get some sort of different reply.  When he doesn't get the answers he wants (the answer is always 'nevermore'), he becomes angry at the bird and despairs over his lost love, Lenore.  Finally, the narrator just accepts that his life with Lenore is over - there is no hope for an afterlife existence with her - all because of this bird's limited vocabulary.  Check out the link below for more information - Good luck!

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial