At a Glance

  • In "The Raven," an unnamed narrator sits in his room mourning the loss of his lover; his sadness and desperation lead him to torture himself with questions he knows will cause him pain.

  • The raven, most likely an escaped pet who picked up his refrain (“Nevermore”) from his previous master, takes on supernatural significance in the disturbed narrator’s mind.

  • Lenore, though discussed abstractly in the poem, appears to be the beautiful lover whose death the speaker mourns.

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Character Analysis

The Speaker

There is little direct information about the speaker of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven.” Because the poem unfolds from his perspective, the speaker’s character emerges through inadvertent details. It is clear from the start that he is a scholar of some kind. In “The Philosophy of Composition,” Poe refers to him as a “student,” which suggests his age but does not entirely clarify his pursuits. The poem’s second line finds him pondering over “many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore.” The bust of Pallas—that piece of professorial decor—further fills in the picture of the speaker as a seeker of knowledge. While the speaker’s class is never specified, the manner of his speech and the luxuriousness of his purple-curtained chambers suggest he is of an aristocratic, or at least affluent, background.

The speaker is also, from the start, “weak and weary.” As soon becomes clear, his central source of conflict and pain is the loss of his love, Lenore. His grief for her drives the story of the poem. When the eponymous raven arrives and begins to utter its refrain, the word “Nevermore,” the speaker projects his obsessive grief onto the bird. The speaker takes the raven’s word as wisdom. So, when he asks a series of questions about the death of his beloved, the continual reply of “Nevermore” fills him with dread. Will he ever forget his grief? Is there any consolation? Will he ever see the lost Lenore again? Nevermore. Nevermore. Nevermore.

The Raven

Edgar Allan Poe chose the figure of the raven to satisfy several of the formal guidelines he had set for the poem. As he describes in his essay “The Philosophy of...

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