The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe.
October isn’t over yet and I’ve decided that Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven is a brilliant poem to read in the lead up to Halloween.
If you’re not a fan of Poe or you are unfamiliar with his work, I would recommend The Raven, because it is one of Poe’s most well-known poems. I would suggest that this poem is Poe’s most famous work, simply because of how often the poem gets parodied.
I recently watched a Halloween episode of The Simpsons. It was one of the “Treehouse of Horror” episodes, season 2, episode 3. The third section of this particular episode is an adaptation of Poe’s The Raven. It was fantastic. If you want to be introduced to this piece in a very fun way, then I would absolutely recommend this episode. The “Treehouse of Horror” episodes of The Simpsons are always great fun. I am a casual watcher, so I had never seen this particular episode before, so I was happily surprised to see that The Raven was featured. Hearing the poem again in this episode reminded me of just how much I enjoy the work of Edgar Allan Poe.
The Raven was published in 1845 and it is made up of eighteen stanzas.
I really love this poem because I think it is a piece that really demonstrates Poe’s writing style. It is no secret that I am a fan of gothic literature. I enjoy the way gothic literature subverts expectations and builds suspense. Gothic stories often take place in very vivid settings. To sum up; I love gothic literature because of how evocative it can be.
It has been said that Edgar Allan Poe is a brilliant example of a gothic writer. I would have to say that I agree with this statement because Poe’s writing often explores themes of death and despair, while also being on the verge of terrifying. Poe also uses repetition to build up a sense of urgency in his pieces, alongside utilizing descriptions to create very vivid pictures with his words.
The Raven is a poem that encapsulates all of the above mentioned characteristics. The poem is about a man who is desperately lonely and heartbroken after the death of the love of his life. On a cold winter night, a raven taps on the window and on the door. He opens the window, letting the bird in, but he slowly becomes driven mad by this raven.
The raven seems to be talking back to the man, although all the bird can croak out is the word “nevermore”. Now one can ask if the bird is actually croaking out that word? One interpretation could be that the man is imagining the bird is responding to him, or one could imagine that perhaps this bird is somehow communicating with this man.
I would say that this poem is about a man who is descending deeper and deeper into sadness and despair after the death of his wife. He thinks about how the bird will soon leave the room, leaving him, just as his loved ones have left him. The man goes on to question if he will someday be reunited with his love Lenore, but all the bird says is “nevermore”.
The man becomes more and more distraught by the raven’s response. His sadness turns to anger as he gets angry at the bird constantly saying “nevermore”. The man is driven mad by the raven, and he decides the raven is a thing of evil.
In all of my readings about The Raven, something that I have come across many times is that apparently Poe himself stated that the raven was a symbol of grief, and he felt that a raven suited the dark theme of the poem.
One could also say that this poem is a gothic romance, as it is about a man who is utterly devastated by the loss of his love, clearly showing that his love for Lenore remained just as strong after she died. He hopes to be reunited with her someday. His grief drives him so mad that he asks a raven questions that the bird cannot possibly answer.
The Raven is a beautiful, musical poem despite being so very sad. This poem is a lovely one to read aloud, and I would say that this is due to Poe’s frequent use of alliteration and repetition.
Poe has used trochaic octameter in The Raven.
What does this mean?
This means that each poetic meter has eight trochaic feet in each line, and each foot contains a stressed syllable that is followed by an unstressed syllable. This is a meter that is not used often, however I would say that the rhythm it creates, paired with Poe’s alliteration and repetition is why this poem became so famous. It is musical. It flows off the tongue beautifully, and you can’t help but become passionate when you say it aloud, because you become urgent, just like the man does.
I think that the poem is very evocative because there is a lot of onomatopoeia used by Poe.
Onomatopoeia is when a word sounds like what it describes – “buzz,” “whoosh,” “splat.” These are words that are great examples of onomatopoeia.
I would argue that Poe uses quite straightforward language. The poem is easy to follow, however the repetition of very similar words can leave the reader slightly tongue twisted on the first attempt.
The Raven is an evocative, gothic poem that makes for a very eerie, moving read. It is an especially brilliant poem to turn to when one is studying poetry as this poem allows readers to analyse several different poetic literary devices such as alliteration, onomatopoeia, repetition, imagery, etc. as mentioned above. It is one thing to talk about literary devices, but it is really helpful when you can see how a writer has used these techniques to create something very beautiful and very musical.
If you’ve never read The Raven then I would highly recommend that you do. It is a brilliant October read.
Do you have a favourite poem? Let me know.