Edgar Allan Poe And The Raven Essay

, Research Paper Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortals ever dared to dream before. The writer of these words was enchanted by darkness…thrilled by death.

, Research Paper

Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortals ever dared to dream before.

The writer of these words was enchanted by darkness…thrilled by death.

What sort of person would spend their whole life linking hands with Death

and her counterparts? Quite possibly a literary genius by the name of Edgar

Allan Poe. Famous for romanticizing the darker, more Gothic side of life, E.

A. Poe had quite a collection of works from his lesser known stories to his

most famous poem, The Raven . This great man s life has been analyzed to

death (no pun intended) to find key s to unlock the maze of his apparent

creativity. Here, the reader will find only an in depth look at The Raven ,

information on the author s life and lifestyle, a brief look at other Poe

works, criticism on his writings, and some unusual ways his fame has been

honored . To begin with, The Raven holds a dark sense of elegance which

has been appealing to many since it was written in 1845.

The theme of The Raven is simple: a man suffering the loss of his

love is visited by a speaking raven, whose repetitious, meaningless answers

torture him to the point of insanity (see Appendix R) (Decoder, Internet).

The feeling of lost love portrayed in the poem might have reflected the

death of Poe s wife, Virginia, in 1847 (Qrisse, Internet). As it is read, a

definite rhyme scheme is present: internal rhyme in the first and third line,

and end rhymes in lines two, four, and five. All eighteen stanzas of the poem

are arranged like this, but Poe never makes it seems unexciting or

repetitious. Probably the most noticeable and most brilliant aspect of The

Raven is it s saturation of symbolism. The raven (see Appendix R) itself is

the main symbol, representing the man s self-torture uncovered in the work.

Because the raven does not comprehend or reason it s answers, it allows the

man to interpret them however his mind allows, which gives the reader a look

at the mind s unstable mind state. The bust of Pallas that the raven perches

upon to preach its wisdom is another strong symbol. Pallas is the goddess

of wisdom, and an eerie feeling is felt as the raven sits upon it and appears

to speak nonsense. When questioned about his reasoning for using the bust

of Pallas in his poem, Poe replied because of the sonorous of the word,

Pallas, itself. Two other symbols that are not so apparent are the use of

midnight and December . Both signify darkness, an end, or a change to

something new. The chamber the narrator speaks from could be interpreted

as a symbol, as it represents loneliness. The expensive furnishings of the

chamber appear to say that the beauty and riches the man surrounds

himself in will not replace his love (Qrisse, Internet). Edgar Allan Poe

entwined all these symbols in The Raven , a deliciously twisted poem about

the death of beauty and the heartache it causes.

Poe lived a solitary, reckless life, which included the use of alcohol and drugs. Born in 1809 to parents, Eliza Poe and David Poe Jr., he was orphaned before the age of three. His father died at the age of 36 and his mother died at 24 from tuberculosis (Payge s, Internet). Poe was sent live with

foster parents, John and Fanny Allan (see Appendix J). In 1826, he entered

the University of Virginia. He was a good student, but eventually turned to

gambling to pay debts. It was during this time that Poe had his first

romantic interest which ended on a harsh note (see Appendix E) Despite

grades and ambition, Poe had to leave college because of lack of money. A

year later he enlisted in the army for two years, after which he entered

Westpoint. Then, halting his solitary life, Edgar married his 13 year old

cousin, Virginia, in 1836. On October 5, 1849, he was found unconscious and

on drugs; three days later he died, possibly of rabies (Qrisse, Internet).

(see Appendix R) Edgar Allan Poe s appearance is a suprisingly interesting

topic, one that may be addressed with some importance. Poe was apparently

an attractive, fit man (perhaps due to his earlier, short-lived military

career). He also appeared dark, drawn in, and, towards the end of his life,

sickly. Poe was a small man; records showing approximately 5 feet 8 inches

in height and 140 pounds in weight. Documentation reveals that Poe s eyes

were odd, and even a bit disturbing. Information varies whether the color

was gray hazel, blue, or violet. Whatever the color, his eyes commanded the

attention of his face. According to Mary Star in 1888, His eyes were large

and full, gray and piercing.” Maybe because of his regular drinking and his

indulgence in the nighttime hours, Poe s complexion was always pale, almost

to the point of translucence (Society, Internet). Poe s characteristic looks

are a few of the things that made him a memorable person for anyone

meeting him to remember.

Poe s lifestyle was a bit of an enigma, and it was always questioned how

he manifested such dark and morbid tales. Throughout his life he had few

friends; those he had, he didn t rely on them. Poe was an obvious alcoholic

and a rumored heavy drug user. Suprisingly, he had a well established

college career, the short time that he attended. His activities included

athletic and artistic abilities, and he was also a member of the debate club.

In his later life, he used fake identities for reasons unknown. (ex. Henri Le

Rennet). Answers to the mystery of Poe s life remain untold, only his works

survived to speak their story (Qrisse, Internet).

The Raven is by far the work for which Edgar Allan Poe is most well

known. However, by the time of his death, he had compiled a variety of

poems, short stories, and other works. Poe s first book was titled Tamerlane

and other Poems, and it was not published under his true name. In 1832, he

won $50 for Manuscript Found in a Bottle , but it was hardly enough to

support him as he waited for his other works to catch on to the public. The

short story The Murders in the Rue Morgue is considered to the first real

detective story (Qrisse, Internet). Poe had the theory that all poems should

be written short enough to be read in one sitting, so the reader will find no

poems that are long enough to fill a small book among Poe s works (Deocoder,

Internet). (Appendix P) Other famous works by Poe are included in the

following list:

The Fall of the House of Usher

The Pit and The Pendulum

The Tell-Tale Heart

To Helen

The Bells

The Black Cat


The Masque of the Red Death (Gothic, Internet) (see Appendix T for


It is a common misconception that Poe was entirely dark and all of

his works mirrored that. Poe had a humorous side which shined in some of

his writings. He liked to use plays on words and other small, seemingly

childish things to amuse himself, if not the audience. For example, in the

short story The Devil in the Belfry , there is a small town which has an

obsession of the clock in its center. The town is named Vondervotteimittis

(spoken aloud and the reader realizes it is heard wonder what time it is ).

Not just one or two works had a lighter side to them either. The following is

a list of some of Poe s less grave works:

“Oh Tempora, Oh Mores”

“Lines on Joe Locke”

“Epigram for Wall Street”

“Why the Little Frenchman Wears His Hand in a Sling”

“Peter Pendulum: The Business Man”

“The Man that was Used Up”

“The Devil in the Belfry”

“The Spectacles”

“Some Words with a Mummy

“The Angle of the Odd”

For someone with so many famous works, it is understandable that he

should receive criticism, both good and bad, on his efforts, which were

known to be inspired by Lord Byron (Qrisse, Internet). As a general

comment, it was once said that [Poe s obsession] was the grave…

(Blackness, 101), and this surfaces throughout his writing. Not necessarily a

criticism to his works, but rather his train of thought, it was said, Poe s

fantasies are strangely materialistic. (Blackness, 104). The darkness of his

works was described by having Night, who reigns supreme over his poetry.

(Blackness, 120). In an effort to analyze The Raven , and Poe s choice for

the bird, the following was written:

Ravens, that with delight feed on carrion, seem to

be remarkable types of devils, who delight prey

upon souls of the dead…devils are spirits of the

air. The raven by its blackness represents the

prince of darkness. Sin and sorrow and death are

all in the Scripture represented by darkness or

the color black, but the Devil is the father sin, a

most foul wicked spirit, and the prince of death

and misery. (Blackness, 32)

Most of Poe’s stories have a continual motif of obsessive-compulsive

behavior (Archetypal, Internet). This may seem to be a general statement,

but upon looking at more of Poe s works, it turns out to be a dead on

observation. While Poe has been praised for his morbid thrillers, his

audience has on occasion expressed dislike for the romanticizing of the

darker side of life:

“Mr. Poe is too fond of the wild unnatural and

horrible! Why will he not permit his fine genius to

soar into purer, brighter, and happier regions?

Why will he not disenthral himself from the spells

of German enchantment and supernatural imagery?

There is room enough for exercise of the highest

powers, upon the multiform relations of human life,

without descending into the dark, mysterious and

unutterable creations of licentious fancy.

(Society, Internet)

The following was once written in a letter to Poe by Elizabeth Barrett

Browning, to whom Poe had dedicated a book: Your ‘Raven’ has produced a

sensation, a ‘fit horror,’ here in England. Some of my friends are taken by

the fear of it and some by the music. I hear of persons haunted by the

‘Nevermore,’ and one acquaintance of mine who has the misfortune of

possessing a ‘bust of Pallas’ never can bear to look at it in the twilight.” (it

must be noted that Poe borrowed the form he used for stanzas in The

Raven from her. Which brings the reader to another thought: are Poe s

works genuinely understandable enough to make them liked? R. H. Stoddard,

a journalist, commented As a poet, Poe ranks high, although most of his

poetry is unreadable. . . . The school of literature to which Poe belongs, and

of which he is certainly the master, is one that we thoroughly dislike.

(Society, Internet) Another criticism expresses the concern (neither

positive nor negative) of the apparent recurring themes in Poe s works.

Obvious repeated, sometimes overused, themes are the use of the eye, the

heart, an un-named narrator, premature burial, a vortex, and dreams

(Motifs, Internet). Probably the most accurate and non-degrading comment

on Poe that sums up his work, style, and life was made by Jules Verne when

he stated, You might call him [Poe] ‘The Leader of the Cult of the

Unusual’.” (Society Internet) Edgar Allan Poe s work receives criticisms

both good and bad for his famous works, writing style, and lifestyle, and

there are many more not mentioned here. It is his fame that draws opinions

of his creations.

Edgar Allan Poe s fame goes far beyond having a book or two

published. In South Carolina, Poe is honored by having a library named after

him, named, creatively enough, The Edgar Allan Poe Library (Qrisse,

Internet). There is a museum built in his dedication which houses a statue

built to honor Poe and his parents. The 1994 movie The Crow owes, no

doubt, tribute to The Raven s fame for the theme and also for quoting the

novel in the script. The National E. A. Poe Historic site was built in his

honor, as well as the Moses Ezekial Statue. Surfing the Internet

super-highway, one will find the Edgar Awards at Mystery Writers of

America, inspired by Poe.

The Raven is a brilliantly dark poem in which Poe discusses the

tragicness of loss and the feelings of darkness. Poe s life and lifestyle was a

series of events that inspired him to create all of his well acclaimed works

which raised both positive and negative criticisms. Poe s fame has been

honored in various ways throughout time, whether for the good or the bad.

The readers can only be certain Poe and his works will be forgotten

Nevermore .