What are some descriptive words used for the bird in "The Raven"?

Quick answer:

The bird in "The Raven" is described using words such as "stately," "ebony," "beguiling," "grave and stern," "ungainly," "grim," "ghastly," "gaunt," and "ominous." These descriptions portray the bird as elegant, serious, somber, awkward, menacing, and even frightening. The bird is also referred to as a "prophet," suggesting a connection to the supernatural or the afterlife. Additionally, the bird's stillness and unmovable nature contribute to its severe, forbidding, and majestic image.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In the seventh stanza, the speaker describes the raven as "stately" and as having the "mien of lord or lady." In other words, the bird has a certain elegance and holds itself as though it were of high status and privilege. In the eighth stanza, the bird is said to be "ebony" and "beguiling" as well as "grave and stern"; the narrator is fascinated by the bird's serious and somber demeanor. In the ninth stanza, he describes the bird as "ungainly" and a few stanzas later, he calls it "grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous"; in other words, then, the bird is kind of frightening and awkward and strange and menacing—the word "ominous" implies that the narrator sees the bird as an omen of sorts, perhaps something associated with the supernatural. The narrator feels as though the bird knows something he does not. Later, still, he calls the bird a "prophet" and seems to believe that it does bring him some kind of news from the underworld or afterlife, or even the devil.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Some descriptive words about the bird in "The Raven" include grim, stern, ebony [black], ancient and ghastly. The bird is also described more than once as still and unmoving, standing without a feather fluttering. All of these words accumulate to paint a picture of a severe, forbidding and majestic bird. He almost seems to be a person: perhaps a bit like a rigid, unsmiling man with black hair. This is no chirping, twittering, friendly little songbird. The raven instead contains elements of the sublime, a style popular in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and characterized by evoking emotions of mingled awe and terror. In the end, the raven, with its grim aspect, demonic eyes and the dark shadow it casts has an oppressive effect on the narrator. 

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial