Edgar Alan Poe

’s Raven Essay, Research Paper Creating the Melancholic Tone in ?The Raven? Edgar Allan Poe?s “The Raven,” representing Poe?s own introverted crisis of hell,

’s Raven Essay, Research Paper

Creating the Melancholic Tone in ?The Raven?

Edgar Allan Poe?s “The Raven,” representing Poe?s own introverted crisis of hell,

is unusually moving and attractive to the reader. In his essay entitled “The Philosophy of

Composition,” Poe reveals his purpose in writing ?The Raven? and also describes the

work of composing the poem as being carefully calculated in all aspects. Of all

melancholy topics, Poe wished to use the one that was universally understood, death;

specifically death involving a beautiful woman. The apparent tone in Edgar Allan Poe?s

?The Raven? seemingly represents a very painful condition of mind, an intellect sensitive

to madness and the abyss of melancholy brought upon by the death of a beloved lady. The

parallelism of Poe?s own personal problems, with those of the narrator in ?The Raven,? his

calculated use of symbolism, and the articulation of language through the use of the

raven?s refrain, the reader becomes aware of Poe?s prominent tone of melancholy.

A strong device for the melancholic tone in “The Raven” is Poe?s use of the first

person. Poe used the first person by virtue of the situations in “The Raven” taking direct

influence from Poe’s life experiences. Among many other misfortunes, including living a

life of poverty and being orphaned at a young age, Poe?s beloved wife Virginnia, died after

a long illness. The narrator?s sorrow for the lost Lenore is paralleled with Poe?s own grief

regarding the death of his wife. Confined in the chamber are memories of her who had

frequented it. These ghostly recollections cultivate an enormous motive in the reader to

know and be relieved of the bewilderment that plagues the narrator and consequently Poe

himself; the narrator ponders whether he will see his wife in the afterlife. After Virginnia?s

lingering death, Poe tried to relieve his grief by drinking. A parallelism is formed in ?The

Raven? between the condescending actions of the raven towards the narrator and the

taunting of alcohol towards Poe. The raven condescends that Poe will never see his lost

love again when uttering ?forget this lost Lenore? (83). Alcohol taunts Poe into ceaseless

depression and caused Poe to have a life-long problem with alcoholism, which eventually

led to his death. In a similar manner to which the alcohol explored Poe?s inner

devastation, the raven delves into exploration of the narrator?s innermost fears that he will

never see his Lenore again. Lenore, a source for conjuring up the imaginative domain in

the persona, is a compulsion that excites the narrator?s mind into mundane questioning. In

the first stanza, questioning from what direction the ?tapping? came, he throws open the

door, the narrators? nemesis not to be found. Some other realm must be explored if he is

to ascertain something about his lost love and the noise which is driving him insane. The

narrator then opens the shutter, opening his soul to the outside world. To his surprise, he

discovers a raven, a ?beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door? (53). The

raven directs all further action in the poem, it ridicules and patronizes the narrator

throughout the composition and its evil force permeates the air and induces suffering and

anguish within the character. Emotions culminate with the attainment of a climax as the

narrator faces his confused and disordered world. The narrator, in his madness, shrieks,

?Get thee back into the tempest and the Night?s Plutonian shore!? (98).

Poe?s calculated use of symbolism was influential in establishing the literary

reputation of ?The Raven?. The raven is established as a symbol for the narrator’s

mournful and ceaseless remembrance of his lost love. The raven is of significant

importance to the melancholic theme because it is often seen as being a harbinger of death.

Another obvious symbol is the bust of Pallas, the Goddess of Wisdom. This use is

symbolic as it leads the narrator to believe that the raven speaks from wisdom. When Poe

writes, ?…distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December…?, he is illustrating a less

obvious (7). Both midnight and December symbolize closure, as midnight is the last hour

of the day and December is the last month of the year. ?Midnight? and ?December? also

represent the anticipation of something new, a change to happen. Symbolism can also be

seen in the examination of the chamber. The chamber in which the narrator is positioned

is used to signify the loneliness of the man, and the sorrow he feels from the loss of

Lenore. The room is richly furnished, and reminds the narrator of his lost love, which

helps to create an effect of beauty in the poem. The tempest outside is used to accentuate

the isolation of the man, to show a sharp contrast between the calmness in the chamber

and the tempestuous night.

The articulation of language through the use of the raven and its refrain is also

utilized to produce the melancholic tone in ?The Raven.? In the poem it is important that

the answers to the questions are already known, to illustrate the self-torture to which the

narrator endures. Repetition of ?Nevermore? impedes the speaker?s mindfulness in all

actions, and baffles him into a victimized state of mind. The raven?s utterance of

language, especially the sole phrase in the refrain is crucial, for the exchange of

conversation would not advance without the persona having something to respond to.

The poem has a series of consecutive stanzas ending with the line ?Quoth the Raven

Nevermore?, which serves to establish the unchangeable supremacy of the raven, and

founds the melancholic condition of the man. Articulation of ?Nevermore? also

emphasizes the features of the word itself, specifically its meaning. Through focusing on

the raven and its raspy ?Nevermore?, an effect is developed that highlights a gloomy and

depressed state of mind. A refrain is used throughout Edgar Allan Poe?s ?The Raven,? to

underscore the developing tone of melancholy. The refrain accomplishes this accentuation

through its creation of an awareness of the inevitable; realizing that the raven?s response

to any questions posed will be ?Nevermore,? the character inquires about his lost love, the

?rare amd radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore,? perhaps purposefully to

experience further torture and anguish (95).

Through “The Raven,” Poe makes a personal, introverted hell strangely

mesmerizing and tasteful to all. The Gothic tone of ?The Raven,? as explained by Poe in

his essay entitled “The Philosophy of Composition,” has greatly influenced my own and

presumably other readers understanding of literature with regards to probing of the realms

of madness and melancholy. Poe’s haunting linguistic descriptions, unnerving parallelism

between his life and the poem, and alarming yet purposeful exploration of symbolism and

situation, draws the reader into spheres of insanity which at once explores the soul and

pleases the reader.