Poe's famous poem, "The Raven," to most readers is a straightforward yet haunting, chilling tale of the loss of someone loved, and the troubling emotions and inner sensations that go along with a loss, no matter how the loss occurred. In this case, the "rare and radiant maiden whom the angels named Lenore..." is the one lost. Why did an angel name Lenore, one has to wonder? Is there something associated with death or the afterlife in this image?
In fact Poe builds up the beauty of "lost Lenore" in sharp contrast to him saying that it was a "bleak December," and "each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor" and adds that when he awoke from his nap, and looked out his chamber door, there was only darkness "and nothing more."
So the poet is giving a narrator's identity as a person who hears a tapping first, then sees nothing but darkness, and hears an eerie echo of his own voice saying "Lenore!" The reader knows that the narrator is kind of weird, when a raven, a symbol of a scavenger and death makes him happy ("this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling"), but later in the poem the bird is a "thing of evil...if bird or devil!"
The narrator is obviously troubled, and maybe delirious, over the loss of his loved one. And how did she die? Did the narrator have anything to do with her death - and now, the raven is coming to extract guilt from the narrator? This is a possibility, but it could also be that Poe just wanted to keep the reader off-guard, and not give the obvious answer as to what the poem is trying to say.
All the raven ever says is "nevermore," even though he is asked several questions. Is that what the raven's previous owner taught him to say? Was that the raven's name ("we cannot help but agreeing that no living human being....with such a name as "Nevermore."
While most readers, as was stated before, see the poem as reflecting the anguish of a man who lost his love, and goes through some psychological turmoil which is made more intense by the raven tapping on his chamber door, there are scholars who read a lot more into the poem, and think that Poe is in a way rebelling against the world of poetry where there is meaning within the metaphors. It is known that Poe was emotionally stressed out at different times in his life, and that he liked to put the real world in contrast to the artistic world (of unreality) for poetic comparison, and there could be some link between that thought and this poem.
Reading the poem closely, a person could begin to think that maybe the constant answer of "nevermore" by the raven is a way of not answering the question at all, even as the poet begs more and more. Or maybe it is a way of just showing how desperate the narrator is in his life at this time.
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