Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The Raven

"The Raven"
Edgar Allan Poe

Poe, Edgar Allan. "The Raven." The Norton Introduction to Poetry. J. Paul Hunter, Alison Booth, and Kelly J. Mays. 9th edition. New York: Norton, 2007. 212.


The first time I read this poem, I was around thirteen years old and had no idea what Poe was talking about. All I knew was that a Raven was involved and it scared me a bit. Looking back, I'm pretty sure that part of the reason this poem freaked me out the first time I read it, was probably Poe's word choice which gives the poem a dark and dismal tone. Words like, "weak" "weary" "dreary" and "shadow" all give the narrator and the poem a foreboding and depressed sound. What really gets me though, is the repetition of the word, "Nevermore" throughout the poem. It's important that it's this word that Poe repeats over and over again, because it sticks in your mind and makes you remember it later on. The repetition makes you walk away from the poem knowing that nothing is going to change for the narrator.

I also think that the structure of the poem is worth noting. It has a very musical and haunting sound to it as you read, especially if you read it out loud, partly because of the rhyme scheme. The scheme of ABCBBB helps to cause the stanzas to flow together easily and gives it a melodic quality almost when your read it. It also uses internal rhymes too, such as, “weary” and “dreary” to help maintain this melody and flow. The poem is also a Narrative poem that doesn’t speak outright about any specific allegories. Unlike the sonnets or Shakespeare or some of the other poems we’re read so far in class, Poe didn’t write the poem as a long metaphor about love or despair. I think that writing it as a Narrative instead of as an allegory helps to more clearly show the narrator’s distress and slow spin into madness over the loss of his love Lenore.

One thing that has always made me wonder about this poem is the Raven itself. It’s not clearly stated within the poem whether or not the Raven is deliberately taunting and provoking the narrator or if the Raven has no idea what it’s doing and is simply a bird. I tend to lean towards the fact that it does know what it’s doing, simply because of the supernatural mood of the poem and because of some of Poe’s other works in which animals torment or get revenge upon humans (Such as “The Black Cat”).


owowcow said...

yeah i first read this poem a few years ago as well. at a point in the poem it said (don't remember exactly) the raven was still sitting, staring at the guy after a really long time. i remember(in my youth) taking the poem literally and thinking "why doesn't he just throw something at it?"

Amy L said...

I agree that this poem has a sort of musical element to it which I think makes it appealing to the reader. In one of my previous English classes my professor said that the use of the name "Lenore" actually had no true meaning other than that Poe used it because it rhymed. I thought that was somewhat interesting because many people think that there was some purposeful "intention" for the name Lenore.

Prof. L said...

Want to hear it read by Christopher Walken?


Prof. L said...

Ah, here's the one I wanted:


Sara Bouchard said...

For some reason I have always been able to quote the first few lines of this piece from memory. Perhaps it's my dads and my own shared liking for Poe's writing. I agree that the repetition makes this piece stick out in your mind.

Marissa said...

I agree. What a creepy poem! When I read the poem back in some seventh grade English class or something, I didn't question the raven--given the tone of the poem, it seemed perfectly reasonable that this bird was some supernatural being sent to torment the narrator. On re-reading now, though, I think it's more a case of the narrator projecting his own guilt or grief or whatever onto the bird and tormenting himself.