The Raven Study Guide
Introduction to The Raven
First published in the Evening Mirror in January 1845, Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “The Raven” was an overnight sensation. It remains the most popular and best-known poem that Poe ever wrote. During the final years of his life, Poe was often referred to as “the raven,” and his readers often incoporated phrases from the poem into their daily speech. “The Raven” is a dramatic monologue, a form in which the speaker inadvertantly reveals their psychological state. It consists of eighteen six-line stanzas told from the perspective of a scholarly young man grieving for his lost love, Lenore. The speaker's moods change as he interprets the raven’s presence and the meaning of a singular utterance, “Nevermore,” and descends deeper and deeper into despair.
A Brief Biography of Edgar Allan Poe
Edgar Allan Poe (1809–1849) was an American writer who gained fame for his gothic tales. Poe’s life story makes it easy to see where the author got his ideas and how his work relates to his experience. First, his father abandoned the family; then his mother died when he was very young, and his foster father, John Allen, erratically swung between lenience and extreme discipline; finally, Poe married his much younger cousin Virginia, who died at an early age. It’s no wonder, then, that Poe's work focused on the macabre, the bizarre, and the outcast—the wonder is that he found a way to make such striking art from his suffering. Before his death at age forty, Edgar Allan Poe raised the American short story to a new level, writing works that completely modernized detective fiction, science fiction, and, of course, the horror story. His most well-known works include the poems “The Raven” and “Annabel Lee”; the short stories ”The Black Cat,” “The Cask of Amontillado,” “The Tell-Tale Heart,” and “The Fall of the House of Usher”; and the novel The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket.