Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” is a dark reflection on lost love, death, and loss of hope. The poem examines the emotions of a young man who has lost his lover to death and who tries unsuccessfully to distract himself from his sadness through books. Books, however, prove to be of little help, as his nights become a nightmare and his solitude is shattered by a single visitor, the raven. In this poem, Poe uses symbolism, imagery, and tone, as well as a variety of poetic elements to suggest that the sorrow felt about the loss of a love can lead to insanity.
Within the poem, Poe divides the characters and imagery into two conflicting aspects of light and dark in which darkness overwhelms the light. Almost everything in the poem reflects one world or the other. “For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels named Lenore”. Lenore, who is repeatedly described as “radiant” epitomizes the world of light along with the angels, emphasize the light. “And the lamp-light o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor”. The lamplight the character uses to light his chamber, bring the element of light in the otherwise dark and shadowy chamber. However, The Raven, as well as the dreary December night shows signs of darkness. “But the raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only That one word as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.” The raven is the darkest illustration in the poem and essentially it represents all the pain and grief that is slow pushes him to insanity. These images of light and darkness go even further to represent love and grief. The man associates images of light in the poem with his love for Lenore and the dark images are associated with the grief of losing Lenore.
Told from the third person, Poe also uses symbolism to create a strong melancholy tone. For instance, both midnight and December symbolize an end of something and the hope of something new to happen. Another example is the chamber in which the narrator is placed; this is used to show the loneliness of the man.
Along with imagery and symbolism, Poe incorporates many poetic elements to express the characters feeling of sorrow and grief. These include assonance, alliteration, and rhyme. Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds. For example “For the rare and radiant maiden, whom the angels name Lenore.” This repeats the vowel sound of “a”. Poe also used a lot of alliteration. For example, “Doubting dreaming dreams no mortal ever, dared to dream before”. Observe the repetition of the “d” sound. Other examples of alliteration can be found in line 64; “Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore” Notice the repetition of the “f” sound at the beginning of the sentence. One last element used in “The Raven” is a rhyme. A good example of this can be found in the first stanza; dreary, weary, tapping, door, door, more. This is an abcbbb pattern. Each of these sound devices reinforces the meaning by emphasizing important words.
Including many elements such as tone, imagery, and symbolism, Poe provided the reader with a better understanding of what exactly is going on in his poem. Without these elements, the reader may have never fully recognized Poe’s theme of death and sadness; loss and loneliness.