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Poe, Edgar Allen."The Raven".


December midnight. The first person speaker, a student, muses above his textbooks. He is half-sleeping when he hears a gentle tapping on his door. He mutters that it is some visitor and "nothing more". The fire casts shadows on the floor as if they were ghosts of the dying embers. He wishes for the morning to come and hopes to comfort his sorrow in his books. He thinks of Lenore, a maiden who is dead: "here nevermore", which suggests she might be alive somewhere else in the other world. The memory of Lenore fills him with terrors he never felt before. He is frightened by the rustling purple curtains, but still repeats that it is some late visitor and "nothing more".

He gains courage, addresses the Sir or Madam behind the door, and opens the door wide. There is but darkness and "nothing more". He stands peering into the darkness, wondering, fearing, and dreaming dreams which he never dreamt before. He thinks that it might a ghost coming and whispers "Lenore" and "nothing more". On returning to his chamber, he hears the tapping again and something louder. The tapping comes from the window. He thinks that it is wind and "nothing more". He opens the window and a raven steps in and perches on the bust of Pallas. He sits there, with a mien of lord or lady, and "nothing more".

The student is amused by the brave bird and addresses him in old English. He observes that his crest is shaven but thinks him to be no coward, as he comes from the night as dark as the "Plutonian shore" (i.e. underworld). He asks him what his name is and learns that it is "Nevermore". He is surprised and believes the answer is irrelevant. The raven says nothing else, as if this one word was the expression of his soul. The student mutters that the bird will leave him as other friends did before, but the raves says "nevermore". The student thinks the raven learned the word from some unhappy master. He wheels a cushioned chair in front of the bird. He muses what the bird could have meant by the word.

The student sits in the light of the lamp, the raven's eyes are directed on his breast. He thinks the bird ominous. He recalls Lenore again, realizing she will "nevermore" sit on this place. He fancies the Raven was sent as a messenger from God. He demands an answer to his question whether there is a possibility to forget Lenore. "Nevermore," says the bird. He calls the bird a prophet and implores whether there is any cure for him. The answer is: "Nevermore". Again he calls the bird a prophet and asks whether the two shall meet in Eden. "Nevermore".

The student shrieks and demands "nevermore" to be also the word of their parting. He orders the bird to leave his chamber and let no black feather fall as a token of the lie he has spoken. But the Raven sits still, his eyes have a demon-like quality, and the lamp casts his shadow on the floor. In this shadow there is the soul of the student which "shall be lifted—nevermore"!




- alliteration: "weak and weary", "While I nodded, nearly napping", etc.

- internal rhymes: "While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping", etc.

- refrain: "nevermore"


- influenced by a Ghost story: tapping as a means of communication of ghosts, the December midnight as the hour of ghosts, the student's semi-conscious state of mind when the dictate of the reason is weakened, etc.

- changes of the student's attitude and mood:

(1) nonchalance

- the imaginary ghost arouses uncertainty and fear

- the students finds it amusing that instead of a ghost a bird appears

- the student addresses the bird in a mocking manner using old English

(2) superstition

- the student recollects the late Lenore

- he starts to take the raven as a messenger

- he inquires the raven about the possibilities to forget, to be cured, or to meet Lenore in heaven

- each time negative answer follows

(3) self-torture

- the student inquires the raven even though he knows the answers

- he wants to suffer according to the Romantic cult of pain

- pain improves man and keeps the deceased person in memory

- refusal to acknowledge death (similarly in Poe's poem "Annabel Lee")


  • Author

    Poe, Edgar Allen. (1809 - 1849).
  • Full Title

    "The Raven".
  • First Published

    In: NY: New York Evening Mirror, 1845.
  • Form


Works Cited

Poe, Edgar Allen."The Raven". (1845). In: The Harper American Literature. Ed. Donald McQuade et al. 2nd Compact Edition. NY: Harper & Collins, 1996.


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