Posted in History & Literature

The Raven

Edgar Allan Poe is quite possibly the father of horror literature, well-known for his macabre works such as mystery novels, poetry and critiques. His stories are uncanny and gripping at the same time, and it can only be described as “mad genius”. Among his most famous works is a poem called The Raven.

It is a story about a young scholar whose lover has passed on, and his eerie, dream-like conversation with a raven on a winter night. The poem repeats the word nevermore extensively, creating a powerful effect as its meaning varies for every stanza. The narrator constantly cries out to the raven, expressing pain and torment, to which the raven replies – cold and succinctly – “Nevermore”, depriving him of hope.

Here, the raven is a metaphor of the man’s anguish and his eternal devotion and love. Furthermore, as a raven is often a symbol of logical thought and darkness, it sets the atmosphere of the poem very nicely. Lastly, as the reader is left pondering whether the bird actually converses with the narrator, or simply repeating the same word meaninglessly, it brings upon a chill down the reader’s spine, as the man is placed in a perverse conflict between desire to forget and desire to remember. The raven leads him through his descent from weakness and frailty to confusion, and from confusion to madness.

However, the reason The Raven is so famous is not just because of its sinister mood, the metaphor of the young man’s sorrow and anguish or the powerful repetition of the word nevermore, but also because of the actual structure. Poe wrote the poem in the meter of trochaic octameter, where stressed syllables and unstressed syllables alternate to produce beautiful fluidity. The meter together with the rhyming scheme (including internal rhymes and alliterations) allows the poem to be read in a dreamy way, reinforcing the question of whether the raven comes to the man in reality or in his dream.

(Original poem after the break)

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