Literary Analysis Essay The Raven Analysis

Literary Analysis of the Raven

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Literary Analysis of The Raven In “The Raven” by Edgar Allen Poe, the speaker is continually losing his mind as he morns the death of his lover, Lenore. Poe was able to maintain a melancholy feeling throughout his poem using the refrain “nevermore” and following some very strict, self-set, rules. Every stanza in the poem uses the same rhyme scheme, ABCBBB. He used many literary devices including alliteration, assonance, and onomatopoeia. His rhythm is also very structured and unwavering. The rhyme scheme used by Poe in his poem “The Raven” is described as ABCBBB.

Every stanza in “The Raven” follows this rhyme scheme to create a very structured poem. Poe also uses internal rhyme where two words in the third rhyme will rhyme with each other and with another word in the fourth line. In the second stanza the word morrow in line three rhymes with the word borrow also in line three and sorrow in line four. Poe also uses repetition to not only conform to his rhyme scheme, but to emphasize the word as well. “’Wretch,’ I cried, ‘thy God hath lent thee – by these angels he hath sent thee” (Raven: 81) is an example of Poe using repetition to rhyme.

Poe used trochaic octameter for his poem. Poe used many other devices in his poem such as alliteration and consonance. “Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;” (Raven: 26) is an example of alliteration and consonance. Poe used alliteration to increase the effect of the line. “The silken, sad, uncertain rustling of each purple curtain” (Raven: 13) is an example of an onomatopoeia used by Poe in his poem. The tone of “The Raven” is morbid and depressing.

Poe used a man who had lost his lost Lenore to deepen the melancholy feeling, because losing a loved one is the grimmest subjects there is. Poe had a raven, an already grim animal, to repeat the word “nevermore” whenever the narrator would speak to it. One other way Poe increased the melancholy effect is the torture of the narrator. The answer the narrator received each time was already predetermined and both the reader and the narrator knew what the reply was going to be; therefore, continuously torturing the narrator. Poe also used many similes, metaphors, and examples of personification. Quoth the Raven ‘Nevermore’” (Raven: 48) is an example of personification found in Poe’s poem “The Raven”. Since birds cannot really talk, the raven was given a human characteristic of speech. “And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming,” is an example of a metaphor used in “The Raven” by Poe to compare the raven’s eyes to a demon’s; therefore, comparing the raven to a demon. “That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour. ” (Raven: 56) is an example of a simile that Poe used to compare the raven’s reply to the narrators state of grief.

Poe used many devices to produce the melancholy feeling found in his poem “The Raven” including alliteration, assonance, consonance, and onomatopoeia. The tone of the poem was created using depressing symbols, topics, and themes. Poe followed a very strict rhyme scheme throughout the entire poem. After looking through the poem and carefully examining how much work was put into it to make it so strict, we can conclude that the poem was carefully though through and produced by a literary genius to have pieced it all together so perfectly.

Author: Alfred Gobeil

in The Raven

Literary Analysis of the Raven

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“The Raven” Edgar Allan Poe

American poem of the nineteenth century.

The following entry provides criticism of Poe's poem “The Raven” from 1845 through 2000.

“The Raven” is the best known poem of Edgar Allan Poe, a major figure in American literature. The poem features a mysterious bird who speaks but one word, in ominous tones, to a grief-stricken young man mourning the death of his young lady love. “The Raven” garnered international attention for Poe upon its publication in The Raven and Other Poems (1845) and became one of the most famous American poems ever written.

Biographical Information

Poe was born on January 19, 1809, to professional actors Elizabeth Arnold Hopkins and David Poe, Jr., members of a repertory company in Boston, Massachusetts. Orphaned by age three, Poe was placed into the care of John and Fanny Allan, who baptized him Edgar Allan Poe, but never legally adopted him. John Allan, a prosperous exporter from Richmond, Virginia, provided exemplary schooling for his foster son, including five years in England. However, during Poe's first year attending the University of Virginia, the two had a falling out over Poe's gambling habits and Allan refused to provide further financial support. Poe left home, enlisted in the army, and published his first collection, Tamerlane and Other Poems (1827). A second volume, Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane, and Minor Poems, appeared in 1829. Neither collection received significant critical or popular attention. Following an honorable discharge from the army that year, Poe was admitted to the United States Military Academy at West Point. This academic experience would also be short-lived; after six months, Poe was dismissed for disobeying orders. He moved to New York City, where he published his third collection of verse Poems (1831), and subsequently to Baltimore, where he resided with his aunt, Mrs. Maria Clemm. His first short stories were published during the next few years, and he continued to live with his aunt and his young cousin Virginia, whom he later married. In 1835 Poe, his aunt and his cousin moved to Richmond, Virginia, where he had accepted an editorial position at The Southern Literary Messenger. This was the first of several literary journals Poe would oversee during the next decade; his critical and editorial essays of these years led him to prominence as a leading man of letters in America. While Poe's works of fiction and poetry gained popular and critical attention during the late 1830s and early 1840s, he continued to rely on his work as an editor and literary critic for financial security. With the publication of “The Raven” in 1845, Poe achieved his highest measure of popular attention. This was followed by what were perhaps his most fruitful years of writing. They were marked by popular and critical recognition, yet punctuated with economic hardship and illness. In 1845, Poe became the editor, and ultimately the owner, of the Broadway Journal, but by 1846 the venture lost money and Poe stopped its publication. His wife died of tuberculosis in 1847. During her illness, Poe turned to alcohol to assuage his grief, and continued to drink after her death. Nevertheless, he continued to write and lecture, and gradually seemed to recover his health. On a trip to New York, Poe stopped in Baltimore and several days later, on election day, October 3, was found half conscious and delirious outside a polling place. Poe died on October 7, 1849, at the age of forty.

Plot and Major Characters

“The Raven” features two primary entities: the narrator, a young man whose grief over the loss of his love, “Lenore,” is palpable from the poem's opening lines, and the raven, whose sudden and foreboding presence evokes a succession of emotions from the narrator, from curiosity and mild amusement at the bird's first laconic responses to anger and despair at the realization that his beloved Lenore is now lost to him forever. Each stanza of the poem ends with a rhythmic refrain of “nothing more”—a benign assessment by the narrator that there are reasonable explanations for the strange occurrences of the evening—and progresses to the repetitious and increasingly ominous response of “Nevermore!” from the otherwise silent bird. The intensity of emotion rises with each refrain, culminating in the narrator's own tortured admission that “nevermore” can he be free of the shadow of grief and sorrow brought by the night's unwelcome visitor. The physical setting of the poem—a dark, December night in a library-like room—as well as repeated references to classical statuary, velvet cushions, rustling draperies, and the rapid beating of one's heart in response to fear of the unknown, are all familiar motifs in Poe's fiction and poetry, as is the archetype of the “anonymous young man” mourning the death of a beautiful young woman.

Major Themes

In “The Raven,” Poe exploits several themes that are found throughout his creative works, including the tragic death of a beautiful woman at a young age, and the grief of the bereft young man whose affection for his lost love transcends the physical boundaries of death and life. The motif of the “devil-beast” as the harbinger of misery and sorrow, found here in the form of the raven, is another theme common to the creative works of Poe. In “The Raven,” the ebony bird stands as the embodiment of grief caused by loneliness and separation, referencing not only Poe's fascination with the imagery of young lovers wrenched from one another by death, but also the pain he experienced at a very young age with the untimely death of his mother. Yet another theme—one's helplessness upon being visited by a ghostly presence—pervades “The Raven.” Later critics, including Betsy Erkkila, have also examined motifs in the work—especially the virginal, alabaster-skinned woman idealized in death and the sinister black creature who appears in the dark of night—from the perspective of race and class issues in the United States during the generations preceding the Civil War.

Critical Reception

Although “The Raven” has become one of the best known, most read, and most frequently parodied poems of American literature, it has not enjoyed uniformly generous critical acclaim throughout its history. Upon its publication, the poem generated excitement among readers on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean for its dramatic imagery, emotional intensity, and metrical cadences. Literary critics focused attention, instead, on technical concerns of verse, such as parallelism, internal rhyme, and what were termed inconsistencies or absurdities in Poe's imagery, including his reference to angelic creatures whose “foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.” Critics of his day also speculated somewhat unkindly on the inspiration and genesis of the poem, focusing their attention on the works of others from whom Poe was accused of lifting ideas and images—most notably the Charles Dickens novel Barnaby Rudge, which featured a talking raven. Poe's subsequent attempt to explain the origin and creation of the poem, as recorded in his essay, “The Philosophy of Composition” (1846), is also a favorite subject of critical attention, both in his day and in the generations since. “The Raven” continues to be examined by scholars and literary theorists. Many seek to add nuances of interpretation to an already sizable body of analysis and critical commentary. Others study “The Raven” to discern its influence on subsequent literary movements and theories, including Surrealism and rationalism, as well as its impact on literary culture throughout the world. Regardless of the literary merits or faults ascribed to the poem or to the poet himself, “The Raven” is generally accepted as one of Poe's most characteristic works in theme, tone, and execution, and Poe is highly regarded for his inspired, original imagination and deft command of language.

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