A large, all black bird with a hefty bill and shaggy neck feathers is the common identification of a raven. Being an antisocial bird and it’s all black completion allow it to be a figurative mascot of all things dark a dreary. In the poem The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe, it is easy to see why a raven would play such a dark and ironic part in the piece to give an unsettling and eerie setting for the reader. The intimidating bird brings a sense of dark and deeper meaning into the mind of the narrator. The narrator is grieving the loss of his love, Lenore when a raven appears. Seeking answers, he asks the raven a variety of questions all answered with “nevermore”. This analysis focuses on hidden references that Poe expressed in the poem with his acknowledgment to loss, religion, and depression and how they are all connected in one way or another.
The loss of a loved one can take a physical and emotional toll on a person who begins the cycle of grief beginning instantly with denial, then anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance. The narrator starts off in a solitary state that is interrupted by the mysterious tapping of a raven at his door which can be interrupted as denial, hoping for a miracle that it is Lenore when inside he knows it is not possible. His hopes are quickly returned to reality and denial turns to a time of anger, bargaining, and depression. In the story he asks the raven, “Other friends have flown before—On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before.” The narrator is asking if this mysterious creature will leave him as his lover has left in death to which the raven famously replys “nevermore”.
The sadness and curiosity of what could be is shown from this point on throughout the piece and as it goes on, anger begins to show through. The narrator becomes frustrated with the same response to his deep questions but the rhythm of the answers shows he is not asking the raven itself, but searching for answers through his own grief. In the grief cycle, many can not surpass the feelings they are experiencing and get stuck in a vicious mental state that they can not escape. As a result of his mental battle with himself and trying to find answers, he begins to incorporate the after life and where our souls and true beliefs lie.
Christianity is a historical religion that is referenced many times in life, especially in loss. In The Raven, religion is incorporated many times but some are hidden within phrases that many may not understand. The more noticable phrases is when he says,“Wretch,’ I cried, “thy God hath lent thee—by these angels he hath sent thee”, but others are hidden in plain sight. For example, “Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil!—prophet still, if bird or devil!” gives to idea that the narrator can not determine if the raven is a blessing such as a prophet or a devil sent from hell itself. Also, when Poe writes the line,”Is there—is there balm in Gilead?—tell me—tell me, I implore!”, this refers to healing from a sickness or pain by a spiritual method. He could be implying that the narrator is having a spiritual or religious time of testing that he is desperately asking for any sort of resolution. Finally, when he writes, “…the Night’s Plutonian shore!”, it is another name for the biblical place of hell. The constant questioning of good or evil tells me that the narrator is fighting the darkness and is becoming overwhelmed to the point his darkness of grief and loss of faith gives into depression.
Depression is an illness that is feelings of severe despondency (a state of low spirits caused by loss of hope or courage) and dejection (sad and depressed; dispirited). In The Raven, the loss of the narrator’s lover sends him through the states of grief and experiences the feeling of extreme sadness that can be lead on by depression. This poem revolves around dark and cold feelings that all lead to the final few stanzas that do not leave us on a calming note but one that is unsettling.
The line, “Leave my loneliness unbroken!—quit the bust above my door! Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!”, shows his pain of depression and how the answers he found were not ones he wanted to hear nor ones that could be answered by a bird that only spoke “nevermore”. He continually asked questions but as his grief took over how he was asking the questions, the answers became more horrid and painful. He asks the raven to leave and take the pain it had put in him back to the hell he came from to torture him. The same sadness and agony is shown through in the phrase, “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.”, he is saying about how the dark shadow of this lonely bird is a form of his soul.
His reaction to the interaction left him in a state of depression that he feels is now floating in a dark place beneath him. The reoccurring word nevermore is now repeated by the narrator which can imply that the raven was actually the narrator going through his grief and depression, trying to find answers. The final connection of the birds shadow and the narrators soul never being lifted is the darkness of the depression that overcame the narrator and how the narrator accepted darkness.
In conclusion, this analysis focused on hidden references that Poe expressed in the poem with his acknowledgment to loss, religion, and depression and how they are all connected in the end. The inner stages of grief gave in to the narrator questioning religion and if the answers he received were a blessing or a curse into the final feeling of depression taking over. The hidden messages and references were tied together in a way that they are shown throughout the poem. The dark raven was always there, hidden inside until the lonely needed answers, however the passion and light would be nevermore.
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