Why does Edgar Allan Poe often begin narratives with a quote, and how does the raven in The Raven symbolise a human characteristic? E.G: Jean Pierre de Beranger: "Son coeur est un luth suspendu;/Sitot qu'on le touche il resonne."

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By beginning with quotations, Poe sets a tone for his short stories as the quote usually suggests something about the psyche of the main character.  Also, his quotation stirs the imagination of the reader even before the narrative.  In the quotation cited from "The House of Usher," the heart of Roderick Usher is like a lute, so tightly strung and easily touched by his nervous nature; his heart "resonne," (resounds) with the connection he has with his sister.

Poe's raven in his innovative poem "The Raven," the bird that refuses to leave, may represent the human quality of the persistence of memory.  Poe wrote that he chose a raven for his poem because he wanted a "non-reasoning" creature capable of speech.  That the raven represents the human memory and its persistence finds validation in a remark made by another author, John Irving, whose character Owen Meany remarks, "You don't have a memory; memory has you."  (Our memories surface in our minds whether we wish them to or not.)

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