Discussion Topic

Symbolism and choice of the raven in Poe's "The Raven."

Summary:

In "The Raven," Poe uses the raven as a symbol of mourning and loss. The bird's dark, ominous presence represents the narrator's descent into despair and madness over the loss of Lenore. The raven's repeated utterance of "Nevermore" emphasizes the permanence of death and the hopelessness of the narrator's longing for an impossible return.

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In "The Raven," why does Poe choose a raven and what does it symbolize?

Poe seems to choose a raven, a "non-reasoning" creature, because it allows for ambiguity in the speaker's interpretation of the raven's speech. At first, the speaker assumes that the raven is only repeating the one word it knows: "Nevermore." He reasons that the bird likely had a somewhat melancholy owner who spoke the word often, inadvertently teaching it to the raven. However, he then begins to speculate that the bird is actually a gift from heaven, sent to distract him from his sorrow over his dead lover, Lenore. Still later, though, he begins to ascribe some nefarious purpose to the bird, conjecturing that the bird is actually an evil prophet come to terrify him by telling him that he will never again see Lenore, not even in death. We cannot know, for certain, which of these interpretations, if any of them, are correct. It is possible that the bird is non-reasoning, and it is also possible that the bird is there to torture the narrator. His speech matters because it is his speech that alerts the narrator to the bird's potentially supernatural origins.

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Why does Poe use a raven instead of another animal in "The Raven"?

Edgar Allan Poe was the master of using symbols in his writings. They symbols always represented something else.

Poe could have certainly used another animal in the story, but the effect wouldn't have been the same. He could have used a parrot, for example, but a parrot can speak many words. There is something ominous about the raven only saying nevermore. In some cultures the raven is seen as a bad sign. There are seen as mournful and never ending remembrance, which is very fitting in this story. The narrator can not get over his love, Lenore. The raven can also represent an ill omen or even death. When the raven sits on the bust of Pallas, this is another symbol for us. Pallas was the Greek god of wisdom. The raven can be seen as wise and having knowledge of something the narrator does not. 

Edgar Allan Poe's use of the raven is very symbolic. A raven is midnight black, which the story does take place at midnight. The darkness of the bird is an ominous symbol for the man. And let's just face it, ravens are really creepy birds. We have to ask ourselves, though, are they really creepy, or just creepy because we know the story? Edgar Allan Poe was a master of his work.

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Why does Poe use a raven instead of another animal in "The Raven"?

Being that it is a gothic poem, you get all the element of the supernatural combined together to create a dark atmosphere.

As stated in a similar question, the Raven symbolizes "Mournful and Never-Ending remembrance" (according to Silverman quoting Poe)- The characteristics of this bird are that it is black, and can repeat words. The Raven has also a notorious reputation for being a bird of bad omens.

The fact hat the bird has a limited capacity for repetition compared to , say, a parrot, enables the idea of it choosing to repeat the ONE word that follows the protagonist to insanity and despair.

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Why does Poe use a raven instead of another animal in "The Raven"?

The raven could be seen as a symbol of death or mortality, and the narrator's character is drawn for us through his responses to the raven and what it represents. In the beginning of the poem, the narrator is mourning his lost love, Lenore, and this is when he hears the phantom knock at the door followed by the raven's tapping at his window. The narrator asks the raven to tell him its name, what it is called "on the Night's Plutonian shore" (in the underworld—"Pluto" is another name for Hades), linking the bird to death right away (line 47). Because the narrator has been so caught up in considering his dead beloved, he seems to link the bird to death. Such a link shows us how depressed his state of mind really is.

Further, he is grieving, and he begins to think that the raven is simply repeating a word—nevermore—that he must have learned from his "unhappy master" (63). The narrator is so sad over his loss of Lenore that he projects this sense of loss and tragedy onto others.

Next, he begins to see the bird as "ominous" as death certainly seems to be for him (as it is mysterious and took his love) (71). Then, as he was initially trying to forget his grief by distracting himself with his books, he wonders if perhaps the bird was a gift, sent by God as a way to prompt "nepenthe" or forgetfulness (82). Again, we see his emotions reflected in his response to and interpretation of the bird's meaning and origins.

The narrator hopes that the bird is from God but considers the fact that he might be a "prophet" sent by the devil (85). He desires to know if he will ever be reunited with Lenore in the "distant Aidenn," or heaven (95). When the bird says, "'Nevermore,'" the narrator becomes enraged and orders the bird away; however, the bird does not leave... Ever.

Now that the narrator has been forced to come face to face with mortality—both Lenore's and, by extension, his own—he can never escape this knowledge, and he grieves it, gets angry about it, tries to forget it, and tries to accept it. We get a sense of his nature, of his character, from these responses.

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Why does Poe use a raven instead of another animal in "The Raven"?

There are several reasons why Poe chose to write about a raven. First, the raven is a large black bird which has been associated with bad luck, prophecy, and the occult since ancient Greece, when ravens were linked to the god Apollo and the Delphic Oracle. Thus, the raven helps establish the mysterious, gloomy atmosphere of the poem.

Poe also drew inspiration from Grip, the talking raven in Dickens's Barnaby Rudge, though Poe's raven is darker, more prophetic, and has a more limited vocal range.

In his essay "The Philosophy of Composition," Poe includes a detailed critical analysis of "The Raven," which he selects as an ideal example of his compositional methods, given that it was apparently composed in a methodical manner. Poe says that he wanted to use a creature that was capable of speech but not of reason. This allows the speaker to project his concerns and fantasies onto the bird, while the raven itself remains perfectly impassive. Poe also writes that the raven is intended as a symbol of "Mournful and Never-ending Remembrance." Even if this is, as it appears to be, an original formulation, the physical characteristics of the raven and the mythology which has accrued around it make such symbolism easy to accept.

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In "The Raven," why does Edgar Allan Poe personify the raven?

Poe personifies the raven so that the bird can perform a function within the poem. In speaking to the raven, the narrator reveals himself, the innerworkings of his mind as he struggles with grief and despair. Throughout the poem, the raven does not change, but we see the narrator move through a variety of emotions, including fear, anger, and deep sadness.

Also, by personifying the raven, Poe adds an element of mystery and suspense to the poem. Where did it come from? Why is it there? What is it thinking? The power of the poem, however, is found in this idea. The personification of the raven occurs only in the narrator's mind. It is he who finds human traits in the raven. Essentially, the bird does nothing except speak one word it has learned somewhere, if it even speaks at all. For the narrator to seek conversation with the raven indicates the depth of his desperation during the lonely night.

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