In Poe's poem "The Raven", is the raven a symbol for wisdom?

Expert Answers
sullymonster eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In The Philosophy of Composition, which Poe wrote in order to explain the development of the poem "The Raven, Poe specifically said that he chose this particular bird for two reasons.  One, that it was a bird capable of speech and so would work for his purpose.  Second, that the raven is a "bird of ill-omen."

So the raven is a bringer of bad things.  However, to answer  your question, a close reading of the poem can also show him to be a bringer of wisdom.  The narrator asks the bird many questions, and the bird's answer is appropriate to all the questions.

The narrator asks if he will see Lenore again.  The raven says "nevermore."  The narrator asks if his grief will subside.  The raven says "nevermore."  The raven has confirmed what the narrator has suspected.  It has brought wisdom.  And once wisdom is brought it can not be forgotten.  This is why, in the last stanza, the narrator says that the raven (meaning his new wisdom) will depart "nevermore."

The link for Poe's essay is below.

linda-allen eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Because the raven is a carrion bird, like the vulture, it is usually associated with death. Depending on cultural beliefs, it can also be a symbol of trickery or even the bringer of light into the world. But some cultures considered the raven to be a bearer of wisdom. The Norse god Odin had two ravens who told him everything that was going on in the world; they were messengers of the gods.

In Poe's poem, the raven seems to be more a harbinger of death and darkness than a bringer of wisdom.