Edgar Allan Poe's poem “The Raven” is quite dark with, strong elements of loneliness, mystery, and sorrow. Edgar Allan Poe's life can be described in much the same way. We can, therefore, identify many parallels between the poem and Poe himself.
Edgar Allan Poe faced incredible darkness during his life. He lost his parents as a young child, lost the support of his guardian, failed in many of his endeavors, lost his wife to tuberculosis when she was only twenty-four years old, and finally lost himself in alcoholism. While Poe did find some success as a writer during his lifetime, he always had difficulties with money. These conditions led him into states of melancholy and substance abuse. In his loneliness, he even reached out for romantic affairs, but apparently these, too, failed to satisfy. He died more alone than ever, mostly unconscious and unable to even tell anyone why he was in Baltimore or what had happened to him. The circumstances surrounding his death remain a mystery.
Now let's turn to “The Raven” and notice the parallels. The speaker is alone in his room, pondering “weak and weary” when someone taps at his door. The first person he thinks of is his lost beloved whose death has plunged the speaker into horrible sorrow and loneliness. The speaker then tells himself that it must be some visitor tapping at the door, but he opens it to darkness and “nothing more.” He peers into the darkness, once again thinking of his lost love, wondering, perhaps hoping.
Then a “stately Raven” steps into the speaker's chamber. He says one word over and over: “Nevermore.” The speaker cannot figure out this mysterious bird whose presence seems to torment him, and he is eventually driven to near madness by the creature just as Poe himself was driven to near madness by his own life, which seems to have been just as frustrating and mysterious as the bird.
Edgar Allan Poe’s life was filled with tragedy. The people that he loved in his life died too early—his parents and his wife, Virginia. Disinherited by his adopted father, much of Poe’s life was spent in poverty. While his wife suffered from tuberculosis, Poe wrote “The Raven.” When “The Raven” was published, Poe felt success for the first time.
In drawing parallels, the reader must keep in mind that this poem is a work of fiction. Although Poe may have interjected some of himself into the poem, it is unknown if anything like this scene happened to him. Without knowing Poe’s inner thoughts for this particular literature, biographies explain that most of his work was meant to acquire popularity and money. However, this poem has elements that are found in several of Poe’s work.
Poe explains that every component of the poem is based on logic:
...the raven enters the chamber to avoid a storm (the "midnight dreary" in the "bleak December"), and its perch on a pallid white bust was to create visual contrast against the dark black bird. No aspect of the poem was an accident, he claims, but is based on total control by the author.
Poe was not successful for most of his life. He worked as a critic and his scathing criticisms left him unpopular and sometimes unpaid. His abusive personality often annoyed people. To soothe his inner troubles, Poe did resort to alcohol and drugs.
Through his dark personality, Poe dealt with the psychological aspects of the human being. Dreams, nightmares, fears, death---these topics were the fodder for Poe’s stories and his poems.
The main character in “The Raven” was obsessed with his lost love, Lenore. Poe too suffered from the knowledge that his beloved wife, Virginia, had a fatal disease and he might lose her.
The main character finds himself longing for his lost love. He has separated himself from the rest of the world. Poe too felt isolated and separated from most of the world.
It is unclear if the bird/raven is real or imagined through the mind of the man and his drinking or drugs. Poe admitted that some of his ideas for his stories came from nightmares and dreams that he had sometimes caused by his excessive drinking.
The man’s loneliness is at the heart of the poem. Feeling that everyone has deserted him , the narrator does parallel Poe’s longing for acceptance in his chosen field and his life.
The man and the bird sit and stare at each other until he feels as though the air has grown thicker. Much like Poe and his solution for his problems, the narrator drinks:
Let me quaff this kind Nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore!
Quoth the raven, ‘Nevermore.’
Nepenthe is a drink that causes the person to feel oblivious to any pain. Poe was known for using opiates and alcohol to ease his addictive needs.