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Themes and examples of Romanticism in Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven"

Summary:

"The Raven" by Edgar Allan Poe exemplifies Romanticism through its emphasis on emotion, the supernatural, and the exploration of the human psyche. Themes include intense feelings of grief and loss, as well as the haunting presence of the raven, which symbolizes the narrator's descent into madness. The poem's dark, melancholic atmosphere and focus on inner turmoil are hallmark characteristics of Romantic literature.

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What are some examples of Romanticism in "The Raven" by Edgar Allan Poe?

Romanticism often focuses on elements of the supernatural, which is definitely a feature that appears in "The Raven." This seemingly prophetic bird knocks at the narrator's chamber not once—but twice. First the narrator hears a tapping at his chamber door but opens it to find only darkness. Then the tapping quickly seems to come from his window. The raven calmly "steps" in and then perches upon a bust of Pallas Athena. This bird tortures the narrator, repeating the word "Nevermore" over and over as the narrator questions him about the lost Lenore. Clearly, the raven has unearthly powers in its ability to utter human speech. In the end, the raven never leaves the narrator, eternally tormenting him with its "demon eyes."

Another quality of Romanticism is using simple and especially natural subjects. This is captured both in the narrator's tormentor (the raven, a common and rather ordinary bird) and in the themes that the poem explores of grief, love, and loss.

Romanticism also often idealizes women. In "The Raven," the narrator longs to see the beautiful Lenore one more time:

Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore—
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore.
Lenore is "rare," "radiant," and a "saint." The narrator deeply loved this woman, and his soul longs for respite from the memories they shared. This is intensified because of Lenore's idealization in his mind.

Romantic poetry also focuses on an emotional response of the narrator. The narrator is in emotional turmoil, convinced that his soul will never again be lifted from its depths of despair.

Poe's personalization of Romanticism also made it gothic, which is also represented in the darkness conveyed by this poem.

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What are some examples of Romanticism in "The Raven" by Edgar Allan Poe?

The distinctive features of Romanticism include an emphasis on the imaginative, fantastic, emotional, and spiritual in human experience with an emphasis on the self. It rejects the rational, logical, and factual aspects of existence. In the hands of Poe, it usually included Gothic, nostalgic, symbolic, and supernatural elements.

The speaker of "The Raven" is given to obsessive introspection as he muses over antique books alone in his book-filled study. The setting is late at night at the end of the year, he is alone by firelight, and the weather is cold and unsettled—all elements of the Gothic. The "bust of Pallas" symbolizes the classical era of the idealized past and his quest for knowledge and wisdom.

The speaker's desperation to know what happens after death and whether he will be reunited with "the lost Lenore" drives the poem's narrative. His emotional state is extreme; he moves from depressed to curious, to angry, and back again to depressed. He explores the spiritual, asking if there will be "balm in Gilead" and whether God has sent the bird to comfort him, but he does not find the comforting answers he seeks in the raven's one-word vocabulary: "nevermore."

It is reasonable to claim that the raven is a symbol of the narrator's grief; he concludes, at the poem's end, that it will never leave him.

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What are some examples of Romanticism in "The Raven" by Edgar Allan Poe?

In "The Raven" by Edgar Allan Poe, there are many examples of romanticism. First of all, individualism as expressed by Romantics is clear as the poem is written in first person. One of the most lonely moments in life is after experiencing the loss of a loved one and this loneliness is key to unlocking extreme emotion and deep reflection as also found in romanticism. The speaker of the poem is interrupted during an intense moment of grief by a knock at the door; then later, he is interrupted by the raven who flies into his room and disturbs his personal moment. He even feels that his sublime moment is mocked when he says, "Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling." This angers the speaker, but not as much as the fact that the raven only has one confusing reply to all of his questions--"Nevermore." Another aspect of romanticism is the thought of the universe being connected to God, which is also mentioned in the ninth stanza. The clashing of universe with self is personified and symbolized by the bird entering his room. A dark black bird presenting itself at such a time when life and death are so close is disturbing for a grieving subject and drives him mad.

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What are some themes in Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven"?

The theme of insanity is emphasized by elements defined by Gothic-era literature, particularly internal darkness (depression, previously termed melancholia), hallucinations, and a supernatural atmosphere. Edgar Allan Poe is considered the apex of American Gothic literature, with ravens or black birds a common animal motif associated with the genre. In the poem, an unnamed narrator gradually descends into madness due to depression, loneliness, and isolation.

While alone in his chamber on a dark night, the Raven flies into the room. Initially, the narrator asks the bird's name jokingly, and the Raven responds to him repeatedly with "Nevermore." Even if a raven actually has flown into his room through the open window, the fact that narrator sees it talking is indicative of an auditory and visual hallucination. More disturbing still, the narrator attempts to understand the Raven's words and takes everything it says seriously.

The narrator then detects an aura or the presence of angels, which, combined with the talking bird, solidifies the supernatural atmosphere. The Raven tells him that he will not see his beloved Lenore in heaven and that it will remain forever in his chamber. The poem concludes with the man's devastation over having been forever departed from Lenore, denied from heaven, and permanently plagued by the bird's presence. It can be assumed then, that the man has now descended into a permanent and irreversible insanity.

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What are some themes in Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven"?

In "The Raven," Edgar Allan Poe employs a Gothic ambiance to explore themes of grief, negativity, and depression. As the poem opens, the narrator is at home alone at night feeling sad and lonely. He is reading to try to forget about his "sorrow for the lost Lenore." His lost loved one so fills his thoughts that at various times in the poem he believes she is near him, perhaps in the form of a spirit, ghost, or angel. That is why the rustling of the curtains and the mysterious knocking "thrilled me—filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before." Later he thinks he hears her footsteps and smells her perfume. His grief is affecting his mind, and thoughts of his departed loved one overtake him so that he imagines her presence. This theme portrays how grief dominates the mind of one who has recently lost a loved one to the extent that his imagination can get carried away.

Sadly, the man's grief leads to negativity and doubt. Although he allows the bird to entertain him for a short while, he soon succumbs to doubts about whether he will see Lenore again in the afterlife and whether he will ever be able to "forget" her in this life and heal from the pain of his intense grief. This leads him to ask the wrong questions of the bird. Knowing the bird is only capable of saying a single word and that "what it utters is its only stock and store," the narrator nevertheless asks a question that is sure to bring an answer of despair. This points out that when one asks the wrong question, one gets the wrong answer. Ironically, a person who is swathed in negativity only asks negative questions that confirm the despair he feels. 

Finally, depression is a major topic of the poem. As the man sinks further into grief and negativity, he finds himself drowning is a disabling sea of depression. The bird's beak in his heart, its eyes demonically gleaming at him, and its shadow enveloping him are symbolic of the depression that immobilizes him and makes him believe that he will feel that way forever. In this way, the poem suggests that grief and negativity can produce long-term depression in a person who has lost a loved one and is experiencing extreme loneliness. 

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List some of the themes found in "The Raven" by Edgar Allan Poe.

The unique aspect of “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe comes from its genre: poetry.  This is a horror story but in the form of a poem.  To add more interest, the poem was written in 1845.  It is interesting to think that even in the middle of the nineteenth century people like to be scared.

The confrontation between the raven and the nameless narrator creates an atmosphere of evil, remorse, loneliness, and death. As the man sits in his room languishing over his lost love, his privacy is invaded by this strange black bird that seeks harbor from the storm.  If the raven is real and not an hallucination, then he probably has escaped his cage. He has been taught one word: nevermore.

Thematically, the poem abounds with contemporary concepts. Evaluating the human mind’s ability to cope with loss pervades the poem’s atmosphere.  The narrator suffers from the loss of his love Lenore. His loneliness has debilitated him.  He is depressed, spiritually overwrought, and emotionally over loaded. The raven’s repetition of the word nevermore indicates that the speaker may have crossed the line to insanity.  Life is moving on without the narrator; but in the narrator's mind,  the raven will never leave him because it understands the dark side of the human mind.

In literature, the raven represents evil and death. When the bird enters the man’s chamber, the narrator reacts by pulling up a chair and observing the bird.  Self-pityingly, the speaker tries to befriend the bird but feels that he will leave him as others have left him.  The raven brings an important question with him.  Is this real or a hallucination? "Death is one of the few things that cannot be fixed or reversed, and the enormity of it is therefore entirely appropriate for the exaggerated emotions in Poe’s work."

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."

The unhappy narrator begins to lose control as the bird seems to have no emotion but repeatedly says the word “nevermore.”  He begins to think that the raven represents a sign from God telling him to forget Lenore. Finally, he asks the raven if he will ever be united with Lenore in heaven; of course, the raven answers, nevermore.

The natural world signifies the man’s lost dreams.  Nature is what it is.  Man can only experience nature; man cannot change nature.  Nature will not intentionally hurt man; however, it will not interfere with his destiny.  The man imagines aggressive natural forces at work against him.  His room has been invaded by darkness, sounds, the wind, and the inclusion of the raven. 

The raven breaks into his world as an arrogant entity. The man’s conflict becomes man versus nature [the raven]. The raven and the rest of the natural world do not want to hurt or destroy the narrator at all. In fact, it is only his growing madness that makes the raven appear evil.

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