What are some themes in the poem "The Raven" by Edgar Allan Poe?

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Dimitri Veum eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The theme of insanity is emphasized by elements defined by Gothic-era literature, particularly internal darkness (depression, previously termed melancholia), hallucinations, and a supernatural atmosphere. Edgar Allan Poe is considered the apex of American Gothic literature, with ravens or black birds a common animal motif associated with the genre. In the poem, an unnamed narrator gradually descends into madness due to depression, loneliness, and isolation.

While alone in his chamber on a dark night, the Raven flies into the room. Initially, the narrator asks the bird's name jokingly, and the Raven responds to him repeatedly with "Nevermore." Even if a raven actually has flown into his room through the open window, the fact that narrator sees it talking is indicative of an auditory and visual hallucination. More disturbing still, the narrator attempts to understand the Raven's words and takes everything it says seriously.

The narrator then detects an aura or the presence of angels, which, combined with the talking bird, solidifies the supernatural atmosphere. The Raven tells him that he will not see his beloved Lenore in heaven and that it will remain forever in his chamber. The poem concludes with the man's devastation over having been forever departed from Lenore, denied from heaven, and permanently plagued by the bird's presence. It can be assumed then, that the man has now descended into a permanent and irreversible insanity.

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In "The Raven," Edgar Allan Poe employs a Gothic ambiance to explore themes of grief, negativity, and depression. As the poem opens, the narrator is at home alone at night feeling sad and lonely. He is reading to try to forget about his "sorrow for the lost Lenore." His lost loved one so fills his thoughts that at various times in the poem he believes she is near...

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