“The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe is about a lonely man who tries to ease his “sorrow for the lost Lenore” by distracting his mind with old books. The narrator is then interrupted by a tapping on his chamber door, which he hopes will be his lost love, Lenore. He opens the door to finds nothing but darkness and whispers her name hoping that she will return. Disappointed he returns to his chambers just as he hears another tapping at the window lattice. He flings open the shutters to find nothing but a raven, the bird of ill omen. The bird perches himself on the bust of Pallas, the goddess of wisdom, and repeats “Nevermore.” The narrator continues conversation with the raven even though he can only utter one thing. Poe shows the extreme loneliness of the narrator through the symbols of the raven, his chamber and the time in which it took place.
The raven itself is one of the most obvious symbols in the poem. This bird not only symbolizes a sense of darkness and evil, but also a bad omen. This is important to the poem because it helps to develop the melancholy tone that stresses how lonely the narrator is. The raven is also a strong symbol because it stands for non-reasoning. It would make little sense to use a human in this position, because a human can reason to answer questions, unlike the bird. Even though the narrator knows what the raven’s response will be, he continues to ask questions that eat him up inside. This adds even more to the dreary ambiance that the raven brings about and shows how the narrator really wants to talk to someone.
The chamber in which the narrator is positioned is used to symbolize his loneliness and the sorrow he feels for the loss of his Lenore. The room is richly furnished and reminds him of the pleasant times they once shared there. He has the shutters closed because he has drawn himself into complete seclusion to avoid the reality of the outside world. The chamber is also extremely calm in comparison to the blustery outside. The sharp comparison of these two worlds shows how much he has tried to hide the truth about his loss. Even though the narrator is isolated, there is a chance of a new beginning right around the corner.
The uses of “midnight” in the first verse and “December” in the second symbolize an end and also an anticipation of a new beginning. The fresh start could be in a few seconds, or a few days, but in any case it is extremely close. This poem could even take place on New Year’s Eve, a date strongly connected with change. The narrator is still strongly mourning his lost love, but since it is near the end he will hopefully have a new beginning. By using these “ending words” Poe shows that the narrator’s condition will optimistically be over soon and he will be able to face the world again.
Poe’s strong use of symbols shows how much the narrator misses Lenore. He is so depressed that he asks the raven questions when he knows that he will only get one response, the one he does not want. The narrator also seams intrigued to talk to another creature which shows how often he has contact with the outside. Hopefully a new beginning is coming for him soon and he can overcome his hard loss. It is never easy to lose someone and it is never easy to be alone. The question he should have asked the raven was “Will I ever be lonely again?” To this inquiry the raven would have replied “Nevermore.”