What parallels can be drawn between "The Raven" and Edgar Allan Poe's life?

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carol-davis | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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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.

Parallells

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.

 

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laurto's profile pic

laurto | Student, Grade 10 | (Level 1) Valedictorian

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As you may know, Edgar Allan Poe's life was filled with events that inspired his writing. Poe married his young cousin, Virginia, who died of tuberculosis. He was heartbroken. This poem is NOT autobiographical, her death just inspired him to write it. 

Both the speaker and Poe had recently lost someone they loved.

They were both heartbroken.

Both tried to feel better. The speaker by reading books. Poe by writing this poem, and others.

red215's profile pic

red215 | eNotes Newbie

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It is incorrect to believe that The Raven is based on  the death of Poe's wife, but kudos for coming up with the same answer as everyone else does. 

Since Poe's wife died in 1847 and The Raven was written in 1845, before she died of tubercolosis. With the medicine in the 19th century she would not have lasted two years. 

My theory if this question still needs answering is that Poe conceptualised the idea of losing a wife based on the death of his birth mother and his foster mother, not the death of a still alive wife. 

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e-x-n | Student, College Sophomore | eNotes Newbie

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Virginia Poe was diagnosed with TB in December of 1842, three years before the Raven was written. She died 5 years later, in 1847. During that time, The Raven was written, and almost certainly based off of Poe's personal experiences. 

Poe knew Virginia was going to die. Her condition had been worsening ever since she was diagnosed, and this lead to Edgar's heavy drinking between 1842 and 1847. Anyone who claims that The Raven is not at least *somewhat* based off of Poe's life needs to do a bit more research.

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