There is hardly anyone who can stay indifferent while reading the poem by Edgar Allan Poe “The Raven”. The themes, ideas, language of the work penetrate deeply into the heart. As a consequence, a reader is able to percept the main author’s ideas and aims. Considered as one of the most pessimistic and dark poems in the Poe’s literary heritage, “The Raven” explores the universal themes of love and death. Love in the poem emphasizes the horror of death, and death stresses the strength and invincibility of true love. Usage of various stylistic devices, alliteration and the language of the poem serve to depict the state of dispiritedness and inconsolable grief.
Edgar Allan Poe composed the poem after his wife’s sudden death of tuberculosis. In order to overcome the sufferings provoked by his wife’s passing away, the writer created a number of works. “The Raven” was one of them. As a consequence, the main theme of the writing is a depiction of the intense pain and hopelessness of future existence. The narrator in the poem carries a heavy burden of existence which is deprived of the person whom he loves. Such desperate inner state, which the author defines as “the dirges of the hope” (65), is connected to the sudden appearance of a raven.
The raven in the poem has a symbolic meaning. Since an ancient times it has been the symbol of death and was considered to be linked to the other world. Moreover, the fact that a raven has a black plumage serves as a certain proof of his relation to the dark forces. In addition to the aforementioned beliefs, a raven was also used in the Scandinavian mythology as an acolyte of the famous goddess Athena. However, as the legend says, Athena substituted a raven with an owl, because a black bird was too chatty. In the poem the raven sits on the bust of Athena, which may be explained by their relation to each other in the ancient past. The bird keeps repeating one phrase: “Nevermore”. The usage of this expression emphasizes the pain which the narrator feels. However, the reader may also treat these words as a warning from the raven: it advices the sufferer not to waste his life in grief and pain; despite his beloved’s loss, his life continues.
The name of the narrator is not mentioned in “The Raven”. However, a reader may assume that the author was writing about himself. A reader may come to such a conclusion because the Edgar Allan Poe’s life story coincides with the narrator’s one. Moreover, the text is written in the first person singular. There are two more heroes in the story: the aforementioned raven and a woman Laura, who is the woman whom the narrator deeply loves. The raven in the story is personified: it says the words like a real person; its behavior may be paralleled to that of the human being. A personification in the poem is used in order to depict the raven not as a bird but as the dark force – a herald of the evil.
In addition to the clear symbols, Edgar Allan Poe uses flowery language, which precisely corresponds to the description of the moods and motives of the poem. The high usage of epithets may be noticed at once. The majority of them have rather negative connotations. For instance, such adjectives as “weak” (1) and “weary” (1) emphasize a state of despair and pessimistic mood of the main character. In the second strophe epithets “bleak” (7), “dying” (8), “vainly” (9), “lost” (10) prove the motives of the poem as well. The only adjective with the positive connotation in these lines – “radiant” (11) is used as a characteristic of Laura. Other vivid epithets used in the following strophes are: “sad” (13), “uncertain” (13), “ebony” (43), and the adjectives used as a description of the raven: “grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, ominous” (71).
The explicit usage of alliteration is obvious too. Alliteration is the repetition of the consonants which usually takes place in the beginning of the syllables. The examples of alliteration in “The Raven” are: “Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing / Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before” (25-26). The consonants t and d are usually associated with the sounds of noise, harshness and firmness. As a consequence, their often repetition creates the effect of commotion, worry and fear. Another example of alliteration is: “As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door / ‘Tis some visitor’, I muttered, ‘tapping at my chamber door/ Only this and nothing more’ ” (4-6). The consonants t,p,r which are repeated in the first strophe, signify the anxiety, anticipation and the fear of the unknown. In the context of the poem exactly these emotions were aroused by a sudden tapping at the door.
Moreover, the author uses many archaic for nowadays words, such as “surcease” (10), “yore” (38), “mien” (40), “dirges” (65). There is also one apt personification: “And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor” (8).
The poem “The Raven” describes the inner state of the narrator who deeply suffers because of his beloved’s unexpected death. The precise usage of the language and the general mood of the lyrics create a remarkable and magnificent poem.
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