1st June 2018

Wide Reading – The Raven

“The silence was unbroken, the darkness gave no token.” ‘The Raven’, was written by author Edgar Allan Poe in January of 1845. ‘The Raven’ tells the story of a man who is grieving for his recently passed mistress, when one night during a storm a raven starts knocking on his window seeking refuge. The raven is only able to speak one word “nevermore.” The grieving man is then led down a torturous path of self destruction as he blames himself for the death of his dearest Lenore. Throughout the text Poe uses several elements of gothic fiction.

I believe that Edgar Allan Poe’s intentions for his story ‘The Raven’ was to show readers how destructive grief can be. The narrator himself is distraught due to the death of his love Lenore. The story began calm as the narrator read in his study but the story soon gained intensity as chaos grew and the story progressed. The narrators initial feelings of grief, grew into self blame over Lenore’s death. Causing him to believe that God is trying to punish him, by sending a raven with the constant reminder that Lenore is “nevermore.” Leading the narrator to eventually fall into madness.

“Prophet! sad I, “thing of evil! prophet still, if bird or devil! – Whether tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee ashore, Desolate yet all undaunted, on the desert land enchanted -” The narrator believes that God has sent a malevolent spirit in the form of a raven to avenge the death of Lenore. Which is shown as he repeats the word “prophet.” As a prophet is a being said to speak the words of God. He feels mournful, depressed and desolate. But at the same time he feels fearless, valiant and undaunted. Grieving for the love he lost but unafraid of the punishment he feels he deserves. The reality he faces without Lenore is desert, blank and empty. So lost in his reality, the narrator feels like he is stuck in a spell or trance. An act of self destruction, which has no logical reason. Shows that the narrator was controlled by his unruley emotions. I think that Poe’s trying to illustrate that grief is a dangerous thing. “Deep into the darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before.” As the narrator sat staring into the darkness he became succumb to his emotions of self condemnation. He wondered what he did wrong. He feared his life without Lenore. He now had doubts in himself of paranoia as he listens to the Raven screech “nevermore.” There’s no logic in believing that a bird can be sent from the heavens to relay the message that Lenore is gone, over and over again. But as the narrators emotions consume him more and more, he loses all sense of logic and his emotions lead to further self- annihilation. The narrator says how he’s “dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared dream before.” Which shows that maybe his mentality has gone beyond the human life and he is dwindling on the barrier of life and death itself. He may dream of crossing over, departing this world and joining his dearest Lenore.

And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain Thrilled me—filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;” As the inanimate curtain moved, showing signs of life. The narrator had been so accustomed to death that the idea of life thrilled him. The curiosity of what was hidden behind the curtain added to the thrill and need to know. “all my soul within me burning… Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore – Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore; -” The narrator has an innate sense of curiosity. When the raven first begins to tap on his window pane, he was instantly intrigued by the sound. Just before the tapping began the narrator heard something repeat him as he whispered “Lenore.” As he was unaware that his voice was echoing, he had believing that a spirit or God was saying Lenores name to haunt him. His soul burned as the tapping continued. His need to know and interest grew as his heart began to palpitate. Racing so fast he became almost paralysed. Leaving him and his thoughts to run wild, with the idea that something was trying to contact him. The mystery, the enigma, the secret burned a fire within his soul. Curiosity was so etched into him that his sanity came at its expense.

Throughout the text Poe doesn’t reveal who the narrator is, and not a lot of information is provided about them. We are able to figure out that who ever the narrator is they are grieving for the death of Lenore. And since her death they’ve been awfully “weak and weary.” Which made them highly susceptible to self blame and extreme guilt. As the text doesn’t provide much character depth, it causes a lot of mystery to form around the narrator. Due to the abrupt ending we are left with questions such as who was the narrator? What happened to the raven? Why was the raven saying “nevermore”? All this adds to the mystery. The reader is filled with many things such as wonder, discomfort and begins to become overwhelmed by thoughts and emotions. Especially in the last three stanzas. As there sorrowful tone shown in the beginning turns into anguish and anger. The narrator says, “Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!” I shrieked, upstarting— “Get thee back into the tempest and the Night’s Plutonian shore!… Leave my loneliness unbroken!—quit the bust above my door!… And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming, And the lamp-light o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor; And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor Shall be lifted—nevermore!” Poe uses short sentences which adds to the intensity of these final lines. At this point in the text the narrator is screaming at the bird to leave his abode. Sentencing the bird back to the underworld of which believes it originated. He wishes to be left to the confines of his mind, undisturbed. The narrators passion in believing that the bird is diabolic intensifies as he continues to associate the bird with sinister attributes like the show on the floor and the demonic eyes.

The text illustrates a series of characteristics commonly associated with a gothic protagonist. With the use of being controlled by emotions over logic, a curious nature and being surrounded by an air of mystery Poe was able to show how even a grieving man can carry the traits of a gothic character. We’ve all in some way experienced loss. Maybe not to an extreme such as death, but maybe through someone walking out of your life without your wanting or permission. The loss of love can leave even the most sane person begging for sanity. ‘The Raven’ shows us that in our weakest moments we suffer the most inner turmoil. Our emotions over rule and we can begin to question everything. We can all relate to the narrator and I think that’s what scares us. We relate to the chaos of grief and self destruction. Which is the point of gothic fiction. To overwhelm. To scare. To install doubt.

Join the conversation! 1 Comment

  1. Ruby,

    This seems to be the same comment over and over but:

    Some good analysis. Increase your own personal response- by using these techniques, what impact/effect does the story have on you? What reactions/thoughts do you have about the text? Do you think these are intended by the author? Why/why not? Justify your position.

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