The Raven Questions and Answers
by Edgar Allan Poe

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Is there dramatic irony in Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven?"

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Walter Fischer eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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There are, indeed, examples of dramatic irony in Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven, although the situational irony in Poe's famous poem is, to this educator, more pronounced. Situational irony refers to instances within a work of literature in which the opposite of what one expects to happen is what does happen. In The Raven, there is no well-defined outcome; the narrator/protagonist is befuddled and emotionally-drained. Readers of The Raven anticipate some resolution to the mystery of the large black bird that has invaded the sanctuary in which the lovelorn narrator sits, alone and despondent. Poe, however, does not offer any such sense of resolution, ending, as the poem does, with the narrator resigned to his diminished mental state and the raven continuing to sit atop the bust of Pallas. That, to this educator, is situational irony. An example of dramatic irony, however, definitely exists.

Perhaps the best example of dramatic irony in The Raven involves the bust of Pallas on which the bird is perched throughout the poem. Pallas is a figure from ancient Greek mythology. He is a Titan, or giant -- among the most powerful of the gods. His stature, however, does not protect him from the wrath of a woman, in this case, the goddess Athena, who kills and flays him. That Poe's narrator is presented as an emotionally-ruined man, sitting forlornly alone in his study in which sits a bust of this particular figure from mythology, is no coincidence. Poe was clearly using that legend to reinforce the notion of his narrator as having been driven to despondency by a woman, Lenore.

The Raven offers far more pronounced instances of situational irony -- the mere fact of a bird being the interloper in the narrator's chamber rather than a human is in itself an example of situational irony -- but Poe did include dramatic irony in his poem as well.

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chelseaosborne314 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Yes, there is dramatic irony in "The Raven." Dramatic irony is a situation where the characters in the story do not know what is going on, but the audience (or the readers, in the case of literature) does know what is going on. With that in mind, dramatic irony is prevalent in the first six stanzas (the stanzas before the raven makes its appearance). The narrator of the poem hears the rapping on his door and thinks it is a visitor, or perhaps even the ghost of his lost love, Lenore. However, the readers, who know the title of the poem, know that the creature that is rapping on the narrator's door is in fact the titular raven. The dramatic irony ends when the raven hops through the window and is seen by the narrator.

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