What is the conflict in "The Raven" by Edgar Allan Poe?

Expert Answers

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

The conflict in Poe's poem is an internal one, as has been previously noted. Poe states the nature of this inner conflict early in the poem. He has been trying to achieve "surcease of sorrow for the lost Lenore" by burying himself in old books and trying to forget about her. But the Raven seems to him to be a messenger from the spirit world who has been sent there to keep reminding him of his loss. Instead of trying to forget about Lenore, he is forced to think about her more poignantly than he had been thinking before. So he imagines that her ghost has come back to visit him. He asks the Raven if there is "balm in Gilead," which is equivalent to asking if what the Bible has to say about immortality and resurrection has any truth and can offer him any comfort. But in the end he is defeated in his attempts to deal with his loss. This is symbolized by the Raven taking up a permanent station on the bust of Pallas and continuing to croak the single word "Nevermore." It seems as if the "rare and radiant" maiden the speaker loved so deeply has been replaced by a pet bird who is no comfort to him at all but a continual source of pain.

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

Like many of Poe's works, we find a character at odds with his own mind. Internal struggle is a classic theme in Poe works. The loss of Lenore is oppressing him psychologically, and the Raven's incessant cawing pushes the character into a crazed state.

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

The main conflict in "The Raven" by Edgar Allan Poe is internal.  The conflict exists in the mind of the speaker as he faces the Raven and is driven by his grief to hear it speak his worst and most dreaded fears that he will "Nevermore" see his beloved Lenore.  Therefore, I believe it is pretty safe to say that the main conflict in the poem is internal.

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

The major conflict is within the narrator's mind.  He is so distraught by the loss of his love that it leads him to the brink of insanity.  He appears throughout the poem to be fighting with the raven, but in actuality, he is struggling within himself.  The raven's coincidental response just pushes him over the edge.

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