A Literary Analysis of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven
Assignment — What am I supposed to write about in this Essay?
Use what you learned about symbol in Chapter 25 of How to Read Literature like a Professor to analyze Edgar Allan Poe’s poem, “The Raven.”
Purpose — Why am I writing this Essay?
The purpose of this essay will be for you to demonstrate that you can identify, analyze, and build a compelling argument about relevant and meaningful elements in a literary work of poetry or fiction.
Goals — What do I need to include in my Essay?
You should have a clear, compelling, and arguable thesis statement that expresses your interpretation of the poem or story.
Your thesis should stem from a major theme that has a prevalent place in the poem or story.
Your analysis should focus on the role, meaning, and significance of symbol(s) in the poem or story.
Your analysis should be objective, well organized, detailed, convincing, and offer readers a new or deeper understanding of the poem or story.
Although some limited summary will prove useful for context, the bulk of your analysis should center around your interpretation of the poem or story; your essay should not read like a plot summary, response paper, vocabulary list, or grammar lesson.
You will need to support your thesis and points of analysis with specific textual evidence from the poem or story. Your textual evidence should be frequent, clearly connected to the points you make in your analysis, explained in depth as to how it illustrates your points, and cited.
You are not asked nor required to use secondary research sources; if you choose to do so, then you must adhere to MLA standards for referencing, quoting, and citing those sources.
The essay should be clear, coherent, and pleasurable to read, reflecting conscientious revision and editing.
You should assume that your reader is not familiar with the literature you are discussing and address that reader accordingly.
Reference and Citation:
Every summary, paraphrase, and quote that you present in your Essay must be referenced clearly, cited appropriately in-text (i.e., inside your Essay), and cited correspondingly on a Works Cited page. This is required of all academic scholars at all levels in all disciplines.
Logistics — What are the nitty, gritty details that I need to worry about for my Essay?
Your essay must be 5-6 pages long (not including the Works Cited page).
Your Essay and Works Cited page must be formatted according to standard MLA guidelines.
Please do not include page numbers nor a title page for your Essay.
Essays that are turned in late will lose one full grade level per class day.
Essays that do not include a Works Cited page will not be graded until I receive a Works Cited page (which, depending on when I receive the Works Cited page, could then involve a late grade deduction).
A Literary Analysis of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven
Edgar Allan Poe was an established and renowned American writer, poet, and a literary critic famous for works such as the Ligeia and other numerous stories and poems. Poe’s style and conscientious analysis of a wide-range of genres played an important role in influencing Romanticism. His works range from psychological and fictitious tales to psychological horrors, ghastly descriptions and death symbols, and mysteries, Gothic, in general. The deep integration of symbols applied in most of his work to develop the themes of death, death and reanimation, grief and love among others show an extensively knowledgeable, skillful, and intelligent writer. Poe repetitively explores the themes of death using symbols, allusions and other literary features. In The Raven, the poet outlines the themes of love, death, and grief articulately using symbols, imagery, diction and other literary devices. This analysis explores the application of symbols as a literary technique in the development of the themes of love, grief, and death in The Raven, but placing greater emphasis on the theme of death.
The Raven applies symbolism extensively to outline the themes of love, death, and grief. The application of symbolism in any literary work gives the writer the chance to pass certain ideas to the reader or audience indirectly either as deeper meaning or otherwise. The application of the technique triggers critical thinking and leaves the reader with an expansive room for analysis and interpretation. Symbolism plays a critical role in developing themes, pinpointing crucial issues, and promoting understanding. The analysis of this poem shows the depth to which a writer or poet can go to produce an appealing and compelling piece of literature. The wide application of symbols in this poem allows the development of the themes of love, death and grief among things (Poe). The analysis of symbols such as the Raven, midnight and other elements presented as symbols stirs emotions, critical thinking and a better understanding of the poem.
In different cultures across the world, darkness and black have negative connotations. The poet integrates darkness as a symbol in The Raven to represent the depression and hopelessness the narrator was facing after the death of Lenore. The setting of the poem is in a dark room with only a few embers dying off one after the other and a surrounding of immense darkness. This portrayal of the narrator’s setting may represent him as a person lost in depression and without hope. The diction used to describe December shows a hopeless situation while the darkness symbolism advances it. The narrator says, “…distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December… each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor…” (Poe). The term bleak shows hopelessness while dying embers further portray the narrator as sinking deeper into depression. Moreover, the narrator says, “I opened wide the door… darkness there and nothing more” showing the hopelessness, sadness, and depression he experienced because of losing Lenore.
Further, the poet uses darkness as a symbol of death. The use of darkness to explain death is commonplace around the globe. Allan Poe uses darkness as a symbol representing death. The narrator derives pleasure from horrors and sad uncertainties that follow the loss of Lenore. The devastation of losing a loved one mainly comes with sorrow and immense sadness that cannot be explained as a positive thing except if a person has a dark side, probably expecting sorrow and death to save him or her from the life. The poet may be using darkness to describe the death of Lenore when he writes, “Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing, Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortals ever dared to dream before; But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token” (Poe). Most probably the narrator was standing beside the corpse of Lenore, wishing for her revivification, but she remained still and unresponsive.
Another major symbol used in the poem is the Raven. Allan Poe uses this symbol extensively to express the intense feelings of love and death experienced after the loss of Lenore. Poe uses the symbol intelligently, first as the title of the poem and secondly as a well-integrated symbol throughout the work to depict loss, grief, and death. The Raven shows the deep connection of the writer to Lenore, who despite the less description, appears clearly that the narrator loved her deeply. Most importantly, the use of the symbol represents the fast-approaching death of the narrator. The narrator’s description of the Raven may symbolize the narrator’s fast-approaching yet yearned for death. The poem states, “And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor. Eagerly I wished the morrow…” as if the Raven’s tapping was a sign of death that the narrator was eagerly waiting to happen (Poe). The integration of this symbol helps build the themes of love, loss, and death.
Additionally, Allan Poe uses the Night’s Plutonian shore as symbolism for death. Poe uses the phrase artistically with a negative connotation that points to death. The contextual application of the words as a parting phrase show the possibility of death. Pluto is the god of the underworld in ancient Greek mythology and the last planet in the solar system. The application of the term in this context shows the possibility of the last moments or the departure to the underworld. The narrator is probably getting one of his most desirable wishes after the loss of Lenore, death. The poem states, “’Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!” I shrieked, upstarting: “Get thee back into the tempest and the Night’s Plutonian shore!” (Poe). These lines show are a parting statement for a person headed to the underworld. Therefore, the poet uses ‘Plutonian’ as symbolism for death. Moreover, the term ‘night’ and ‘black’ as used in the same stanza (the second last) symbolize death.
In the last two stanzas, the poet employs extensive symbolism that develops the theme of death significantly. The portrayal of the narrator as dying by portraying the Raven’s beak as death demonstrates the application of symbolism in developing themes. The narrator tells the Raven “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!”” (Poe). A literal beak into a person’s heart would most likely cause death. That the narrator begs the Raven to takes its beak out of his heart shows a man begging for death. The application of this symbolism enhances the theme of death and desperation. The narrator is willing to receive a quick death. The main reason for seeking death been the possibility of meeting up with his lover, Lenore. The desperation that drives the narrator is evident from the first stanza, from where we see him seeking Lenore in darkness, which also symbolizes death. The wish of meeting her in the ‘darkness’ (death) is almost getting fulfilled and, therefore, the urgency.
Finally, another symbolism for death in the poem is the use of Midnight and December in the description of the setting. While midnight is often described as the darkest hour of the night, its precise use in the poem connotes to and symbolizes death. Additionally, by describing the night as the bleak December, the poet insinuates death. In the first stanza, the narrator says “once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,” portraying death as dreaded and capable of sucking all energy from a person leaving him or her weary (Poe). This portrayal advances the symbolism of midnight as death.
In conclusion, in The Raven, Allan Poe demonstrates literary mastery by offering an impressively written poem that integrates different literary techniques to develop themes and trigger critical thinking. Moreover, the devices applied in this piece arouse intense emotions that capture the reader throughout the poem. Like in most of his stories and poems, Allan Poe utilizes Gothic, mystery, and extraordinary writing styles coming up with a terrifying, thrilling, and horrifying poem. The immense use of symbolism in the poem helps in developing the themes of love, death, depression, and desperation among others. Different symbols such as the Raven, darkness, and the Night’s Plutonian Shore symbolize death, making it possible for the reader to understand the poem. These symbols and other are critical to developing a comprehensive yet an easy to understand the poem. The mastery of the literary devices and their application enables Allan Poe to employ them effortlessly throughout the poem. This shows the importance of the measured and meaningful use of symbols.
Poe, Edgar Allan. The Raven. New York: Top Five Books LLC., 2013.