Close Reading of “The Raven” “The Raven” was written by Edgar Allan Poe and originally published in January 1845. It is a narrative poem about a man sitting in his room and falling asleep while reading, wanting to forget his lost love named Lenore. All of a sudden his attention is grabbed by a knock at his door. He goes to open the door only to find there is no one there. Then, there is a knock at his window. This time a raven swoops into the man’s room. This raven first interests the man, but then ends up tormenting him at the end of the poem.
While readers may think this man is just sad a lonely fellow, there may be more to him than they think. Throughout the poem, the speaker goes through several different emotions very quickly. Instead of being a lonely fellow missing his past lover, this man may be a murderer and is afraid to be caught or to let anyone find out his dastardly deed. First off, our speaker seems to be very educated. He mentions in the beginning he is reading books: ” From my books surcease of sorrow” (Poe 10). Readers can assume he studies quite a good bit from the amount of allusions he makes.
He references the Bible several times along with Roman mythology, Greek mythology, and even Homer’s Odyssey. Not only that, but he speaks in intelligent diction using words like quaint, wrought, yore, etc. With that being said, readers could question why the speaker would murder someone if he was smart enough to know the consequences. Well, there are two ways to look at the situation. It is possible the speaker killed Lenore purposefully and easily hid the evidence; however, he began to fear others around him would find out and developed paranoia from this thought.
Or, the speaker could have a mental disability of some sort and he accidently killed Lenore. As for the first scenario, the speaker constantly tries to assure imself there is nothing to worry about when he hears the tapping at both his door and window by saying: “Tis some visitor,’ I muttered, ‘tapping at my chamber door- / Only this and nothing more. ” or “”Tis the wind and nothing more! ” (Poe 4-5; 36). It is clear he is afraid of something or someone because he not only does he reassure himself there is nothing for him to be afraid of, but he is hesitant when opening both the door and window.
After letting the raven into his room, he is clearly relieved when he finds out it was a mere bird tapping at his window: “Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into miling” (Poe 43). Later on, the speaker becomes upset once more, muttering to himself how “[o]ther friends have flown before-/ On the morrow he will leave me, as my Hopes have flown before” (Poe 58-59). From this line here, readers can infer that someone has already found out about the speaker’s deed and has either been dealt with by the speaker or has left the speaker. Near the end of the poem, he becomes suddenly angry with the raven and even yells at the creature.
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore! ,” he says, making an allusion to a drug described in Homer’s Odyssey as banishing rouble from a person’s mind as defined by the Oxford English Dictionary (Poe 83). Now, why would this speaker want to forget about her unless he was the very reason for her no longer being around? While this seems like a plausible theory, there does not enough evidence later in the poem to actually convict the speaker of intentional murder. Instead, it seems to be more likely he may have accidently killed his beloved Lenore.
Emotionally unstable and extremely paranoid, the speaker seems to be almost mentally ill. He repeats himself in his dialogue and pauses often in strange places while speaking, for xample: “Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary, Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore- While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping, As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door. “Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door- Only this and nothing more. ” In the beginning of the poem, he starts out very tired and bored while starting to fall asleep.
He becomes startled by a sudden knock on the door. Right after this knock, in the second stanza, he begins to reminisce: “Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the leak December; / And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor. ” (Poe 7-8). Later in the second stanza, he says “… sorrow for the lost Lenore-” (Poe 10). Assuming that the knock on the door invoked some kind of past memory, the speaker becomes depressed but hopeful with “fantastic terrors” (Poe 14). Part of him is hoping to see his lost Lenore which is why he whispers her name into the darkness after opening the door and finding nothing there.
However, another part of him knows it is not possible for Lenore to be there and thus he returns inside only to be greeted by another tapping oming from the window. From here, the speaker’s unstable mental state becomes clearer as he lets in the raven. He personifies the raven, almost to it as if it were a person: “Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,’ I said, ‘art sure no craven, / Ghastly grim and ancient Raven wandering from the Nightly shore-/ Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night’s Plutonian shore! (Poe 45-47).
He also has the delusion that the raven actually speaks back to him. Assuming this poem is not one of fantasy, birds normally do not speak. For the narrator to treat this bird as if were human means he most definitely was osing his mind or so grief stricken by what he had done that he could no longer tell the different between human and animal especially here in stanza ten: “Till I scarcely more than muttered ‘Other friends have flown before-/ On the morrow he will leave me, as my Hopes have flown before. (Poe 58-59).
He compares the bird to a friend as if he had known the raven or had become familiar with the raven. The speaker continues studying this strange bird and, out of nowhere, begins to lash out at the creature. He demands to be able to forget Lenore and when the raven responds with “Nevermore,” he begins to curse he bird (Poe 84). He then begs “Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn, / It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore-” and repeats the last line (Poe 93-94).
He is so desperate to know the fate of his beloved Lenore and believes that this bird who just happened to fly into his room would know the answer. At the end of the poem, he hassles the raven to leave though it moves not. The speaker is thrown onto the floor and into utter despair over his Lenore. In conclusion, the speaker is unstable and distraught over this woman named Lenore. Though it is unclear what exactly appened to her, it is safe to assume the speaker played a hand in it whether it was intentional or not.
More evidence points to the fact, he may have accidently caused the demise of his beloved for he is clearly worried about her fate and claims she has to be among the angels. He must get angry at the raven for disagreeing with his conjectures and he refuses to think Lenore had a hellish fate in front of her. Though at the end of the poem, he had to accept the fact maybe that is where his precious Lenore shall end up which is why he is tormented by his despair of being the one to send her there.