Edgar Poe Poetry Analysis
“The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe
Edgar Allan Poe was an American poet, who lived in the 19th century. The literary critics tend to believe that he was the writer to invent the genre of detective fiction. As for the peculiarities of his writing style, it should be noted that he preferred gothic style, which was more appealing to the public. Among the topics he described were death and its signs, loss, darkness, etc. As for the biographic influences, it should be noted that Poe’s parents died when he was young and, therefore, this may partially serve as the explanation of the dark motives in his writings. There were many obstacles in his life and one of them was that he was earning his living by means of writing only.
The critics sometimes refer to his works as of the dark romanticism due to the topics he explores in them. These were largely motivated by the interests of the reading masses, which tended to reveal attention to death, burial, mysteries and horror.
In spite of his efforts to avoid direct allegories and didacticism, he was strongly convinced that the meaning of the piece of art should be to some extent hidden under the surface, although not very deep. He believed that those writings (as well as the other kinds of art) can not be regarded as art in case their meaning was not implied but stated directly. He was also convinced of the idea that each piece of writing should be precise and contain a very thoroughly designed idea. Therefore, it required a great deal of contemplation and planning over each separate piece of art that an author intended to create.
One of his most prominent poems is “The Raven”, in which death, loss, suffering and painful emotions have been revealed. The verse consists of 18 stanzas; each of them consists of 6 lines. As for the rhyme meter it may be trochaic octameter, since there are eight trochaic feet in each line. However, it was disputed by the writer himself in the book published later, where he detailed the analysis of his poem “The Raven”, proving that everything in it was thoroughly planned. And as for the poetic structure, Poe tends to call it a combination of different kinds of meters. If we take as an example the following stanza, we will be able to detect the rhyme scheme of the poem:
Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
"Surely," said I, "surely that is something at my window lattice:
Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore-
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore;-
'Tis the wind and nothing more." (Poe, p.5)
Since each second syllable id rhythmically stressed, we may come to the conclusion that the rhyme scheme looks as ABCBBB, where “turning” rhymes with “burning”, and “before” with “explore” and “more”. It is important to note that the author profusely uses alliteration (which is evident from the usage of the words having similar consonant sounds, which emphasize the gloomy mood of the poem and the implied images of death, loss and mysterious phenomena).
In addition, Poe uses the internal rhyme, which means rhyming the words together inside of a single line. It may be said that the author uses such kind of rhyme to create particular rhythms that would reflect the inner psychological tensions that his hero finds himself lost in.
If we consider the peculiarities of the poem, it is evident that the verse if narrative, and, according to the author, he intended to make this poem narrative without any intention of evoking allegory. However, the image of the raven serves as a mystic symbol. The hero of the poem, who is evidently a student (nevertheless, it is not mentioned about that in the poem directly), is mourning the loss of his deceased beloved. He is suffering because of the loss and, therefore, is trying to forget her in order to reduce his suffering. At the same time he wants to remember her, because of the love he once felt for her.
The raven appears to be the character which allows the hero to do both at the same time. The hero seems to have understood that the only thing the raven is capable of saying is the word “nevermore”. In connection to this, the young man chooses such questions to ask the bird that would lead to this inevitable answer. It seems like the young man to some extent tends to be asking questions which lead to a very sad and unambiguous answer. The conversation with the raven does not let him forget about the loss of his beloved, but at the same time the image of the raven serves as a distraction from his ongoing mourning. Even regardless of the fact that the bird makes him return to the thought of the tragic loss.
There is a noteworthy aspect of the poem. The hero first appears as mournful sad person, who later turns into a madman. He turns from weak, helpless and desperate into frantic.
The raven is the central symbol of the poem. According to the later explanations of the author, he did not make a blind choice, since he wanted to choose a bird that would evoke some associations with death or cemetery and anything that is dark, sad and mysterious. Furthermore, the chosen character should possess the ability to speak, which was realized in the image of a raven. The main function of using the image of the death bird is to emphasize the neverending ongoing mourning for the lost love.
“The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe. New York University Press.