The Raven Questions and Answers
by Edgar Allan Poe

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What Does The Raven Symbolize

What are the symbolic significances of  the raven in Poe's Poem? What does the Raven stand for?

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David Morrison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The raven initially symbolizes what Poe describes as "mournful, never-ending remembrance." The narrator's sorrow over his lost love Lenore provides the impetus for his unusual conversation with the dark, strange bird. But the raven provides no comfort for the narrator, a broken man still nursing a broken heart.

It's noteworthy that the raven is perched on top of a statue of Pallas Athena, the goddess of wisdom. This gives its constant refrain of "Nevermore!" a significance that it would otherwise lack. Through the raven's unconscious expression of wisdom, the narrator realizes that Lenore has been lost forever, never to return. And the narrator comes to hate the raven for this. He so desperately wants to hold on to the illusion that Lenore will one day come back. The shattering of that illusion by the raven changes the symbolism of what the bird represents. In the narrator's fevered imagination, the raven has now come to represent evil itself:

"Prophet!" said I, “thing of evil!—prophet still, if bird or devil!"

At the same time, the narrator acknowledges that the raven's dark shadow hangs over his soul. It's going to be nigh impossible for him to expel the evil that's now entered into the very depths of his being.

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litteacher8 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The raven symbolizes depression.

The Raven” was actually inspired by Charles Dickens.  Dickens had a pet raven named Grip, immortalized in his American story Barnaby Rudge and by Poe in “The Raven.”

Poe often writes about depression, usually associated with loss.  In “Annabell Lee” for example, we feel his deep personal pain.  “The Raven” describes loss related to love.  The interesting thing about the poem is that as the young lover gets more and more hysterical, he comes to terms with his loneliness.  He starts out trying to study, but it’s a dreary night and he is “weak and weary” from his loss.

Eagerly I wished the morrow; - vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow - sorrow for the lost Lenore -
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels named Lenore -
Nameless here for evermore. (lines 9-12)

The raven shows up and reminds him, “nevermore” will he see his love Lenore.


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reesieshane | Student

Some of the reasons that Poe chose this bird instead of a parrot is because it has a melancholy tone, it picks carcasses, it is a sign of ill-omen, and it is black. Black is a reminder of sorrow, darkness, evil, death, lack of insight, and mourning. These are all disturbing attributes of this bird and these show that a raven is not something you would want at your door in the middle of the night. When Poe first started writing this poem, he knew he had to have a bird that could talk, yet was non-sentient, non-thinking, and non-reasoning. So he had the choice of a parrot or a raven. As you can tell from above, the raven is more fitting for his intention.

enote1322 | Student

When the raven enters the chamber of the narrator,he sits on the bus of Pallas-the goddess of wisdom. We must remember this throughout the poem because it shows us that even though the raven says only one word it is full of meaning and wisdom.

The symbolic significance of The raven in the poem is vast.The ebony bird stands as the embodiment of grief caused by loneliness and separation.He stands as a symbol of the loss of the narrator whose heart yearns for his beloved Lenore.The raven represents evil and death.

"Ghastly grim and ancient Raven wandering from the Nightly shore – 
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night's Plutonian shore!"
Quoth the Raven "Nevermore.""

At the end of the poem when the narrator asks the raven to leave his chamber at one the raven says nevermore.The soul of the narrator is now been captured by the shadow of the raven.This portrays that the raven as a symbol of grief,loneliness and loss will never leave his life.He will forget Lenore-"nevermore"