Why does the speaker in "The Raven" think the name of the bird is "Nevermore?"

Expert Answers
litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The speaker asks the bird its name, and it answers “Nevermore”. 

This poem is the gloomy tale of a student sitting up at night pondering the girl he lost.  Oh, yes, haven’t we all had those nights!  This guy gets a spooky visitor though, in the form of a raven.

The bird hangs out with him for a few stanzas at first.  Since he has been up for some time, he talks to it.  The bird is just there, perching on a bust.  Creepy!  He decides to ask it its name.  After you have talked to someone for a bit, you want to know his name, right?

Why does he decide "Nevermore" is its name? He is surprised the bird can talk, and since that is what it said, he assumes that is its name.

Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night's Plutonian shore!”
Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”

Well, there you go.  Of course, the bird’s name is kind of odd.  He seems confused by it.

Ever yet was blest with seeing bird above his chamber door—
Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
With such name as “Nevermore.”

Actually, “nevermore” can mean a lot of things.  The bird might not have been telling him his name at all.  Or, it might be the only word the bird can say.  It could actually be the bird’s name.  Some talking birds can only say their names.  The speaker is suitably freaked out by it though.  Ravens are not the cheeriest birds to begin with.  I don’t think you should be surprised that this one says a creepy word!

The raven’s dialogue “Nevermore” adds to the mood of the poem.  It is late at night.  The speaker is disturbed by the bird.  He seems lonely.  He wants to talk.  He feels that the bird, like everyone else in his life, is going to desert him.  “Nevermore” certainly can be interpreted to imply that, but it shows the speaker's state of mind that he reads so much into one word.