Edgar Allan Poe’s life story portrays him as a depressed, dark man always on the lookout for love. He was devastated when his first cousin died, making the end of his marriage even more tragic. He used his frustration over his unrequited love as an inspiration for many of his works. Poe is considered by some to be the father of horror. The Raven, one of his most renowned works, played a crucial role in the creation of this genre. A man who is heartbroken because his lover has just died receives a mysterious visit from a raven. The poem expresses the poet’s emotions and fascination about this raven which, to his surprise, can talk. The Raven is only able to speak a single word. As a result, the speaker can drive themselves insane. Edgar Allan Poe demonstrates through symbolism, allusion, and other literary devices in The Raven how an unwillingness to accept what has happened in the past leads to a self-destructive future.
Poe uses symbols to illustrate the negative or positive consequences of accepting or rejecting finality. The Raven in the poem is used to represent the speaker’s denial and self-destruction. When the speaker first meets the Raven, it is clear that all the Raven says is, “nevermore.” But he still asks, “Is there any balm left in Gilead?” The Raven answers, “Nevermore.” In other words, the Raven is telling him there is no hope in the future. The speaker knows the Raven is only going to answer with “nevermore” but still continues to ask questions. After this, he continues to be frustrated and angry, asking the Raven to tell him if a sainted young lady named Lenore will ever clasp his soul in Aidenn. In his refusal to accept that the Raven has given a certain answer, the speaker engages in self-torture. The Raven represents his inability to accept past certainty and is reflected by the Raven’s first appearance.
The poem opens with a speaker who is perusing some literature. He hears a knock on the door. The speaker initially ignores, but it keeps happening, scaring him. He presumes it’s an intruder and opens the door. However, he finds only darkness. In the hope that his late beloved Lenore was the person tapping on the front door, he calls her name. As he enters, he can hear the tapping on the window. He opens it and “there stepped the stately Raven from saintly days past.” The Raven entered his home without permission and without any obeisance. It was only when he called for Lenore that he realized what had happened. This also suggests that he is using the Raven as a metaphor for his denial. All the speaker’s depression stems from his destructive activity of denying reality. The speaker is only relieved when he accepts his Lenore’s absence. He is sitting on the velvet cushion which reminds of Lenore and pondering about the Raven’s nature. This leads him to realize that Lenore will never be there again. The speaker is only relieved of pain when he realizes that Lenore’s death will never be repeated. It doesn’t last very long, because the speaker continues to ask Raven about Lenore and his reunion in heaven.
Poe employs allusions to demonstrate the subjugation of reason by an inability or unwillingness to accept past events and the eternal damnation that results when one succumbs to them. Poe describes the Raven as being very forceful, which is evidenced by his way of entering the speaker’s household. Pallas represents the Roman goddesses of wisdom and reasoning. The Raven perched on top of it is a powerful metaphor for how living in the present can overpower logic and reason. The speaker may do things that are unreasonable like call out to Lenore, who is dead, or ask the Raven questions he would like to have answered positively. The speaker is commenting on the Ravens dominating and confident nature. He says: “‘Though thy hair be shaved and shorned, you’re sure not some craven, grim and ancient Raven walking from the Nightly coast-tell me your lordly title on the Nights Plutonian shore’.” This is to say that despite the Ravens appearance, the bird isn’t a coward. The speaker concludes from this that the Raven comes from “Night’s Plutonian Shore,” the Roman equivalent of the River Styx which leads to the Underworld. The speaker is saying that because the Raven is from hell, it is evil. He also says that living in the past, which is the same as being evil, is evil. The poem’s switch to the present-tense in the final stanza shows that the Raven never left its bust at the speaker’s house. In the last stanza, the poet switches to the present, revealing that the Raven has never left the bust in the speaker’s home. The speaker is not responsible for the mindset’s decision to stay. The speaker is possessed with the darkness brought on by rejecting the past. This is the meaning of the shadow that the Raven casts. It is a constant and insurmountable hell to be locked up like this.
Poe shows through symbolism, allusion and metaphor how the rejection of one’s past can become an overwhelming force that controls your life. It is a kind of eternal hell. Poe’s tragic loss of love inspired his work. This is likely the same fate he experienced. This poem may even be connected to Poe’s own death, which was likely caused by the loss of control that was a result of his heartbreak.