“The Raven” by Edgar Allen Poe

What makes someone insane?  What does it take to be sane?  “The Raven” by Edgar Allen Poe provokes these questions.  On the surface, it is a poem about a man who encounters a raven in his house.  On a deeper level, however, this story is about the nature of sanity. A close reading of the story’s  motif of “The Raven” reveals that the raven is like death coming to take the speaker away. the speaker going to open his chamber door because he heard knocking but when he opens he finds nothing. The speaker is spooked and out of nowhere he says “Lenore”. The speaker goes to his  room and hears tapping at his window and finds nothing but then sees a raven which make the speaker happy but not for long because the speaker starts talking to it and raven replies with “nevermore”. Each time the speaker finishes his sentence the bird says “nevermore” which freaks him out and makes him lose his sanity. what’s basically happening in the story is that the raven is making the speaker go crazy because the raven is constantly saying nevermore.

“The Raven” changes tone early on the poem. The tone changes from bored to alert when the speaker hears tapping at his chamber door. But when the speaker opens the door he finds “Darkness and nothing more”. The speaker is left in shambles after this and he starts saying “Lenore”. In the last two lines of stanza four

That I scarce was sure I heard you”—here I opened wide the door;—

Darkness there and nothing more.”

This line sparks a turn in this poem specifically an Descriptive-meditative turn where the poem opens up with a description of the scene, then due to finding in a chamber door triggers to an interior meditation on concerns and anticipation of the speaker due to the emptiness and the darkness. This is ultimately turning to a re-description of the scene —  a scene that now seems different due to the changed mindset of the poem’s speaker.

My first impressions of “The Raven” was confused, because it made me feel surprised, yet, at the same time, perplexed.  The last four lines in the eighth stanza especially evokes this first feeling for me:

“Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,” I said, “art sure no craven,

Ghastly grim and ancient Raven wandering from the Nightly shore—

Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night’s Plutonian shore!”

Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”  

The other feeling  of perplexity arises when I read the last four lines in stanza four:

“But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,

And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,

That I scarce was sure I heard you”—here I opened wide the door;—

Darkness there and nothing more.

Perhaps because someone was knocking yet no one was at  the door which makes me perplexed. But the thing is that the knocking was consistent. It kept on happening even though he checked everything. What’s happening in the poem is that the dude who is talking is slowly becoming crazy due to the raven that is talking and saying “nevermore”. What I know about the speaker is that they are the kind of person who are scared of what they don’t understand. This is suggested by the stunned tone of the speaker in the fifteenth stanza;  

“Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil!—prophet still, if bird or devil!—1

Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,

Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted—

On this home by Horror haunted—tell me truly, I implore—

Is there—is there balm in Gilead?—tell me—tell me, I implore!”

Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”

The cadence is causing the tone of the poem to speed up because the speaker is speaking to the raven because he is trying to prove to himself that he is sane and trying to prove that there is nothing odd about the raven to himself. But the raven keeps on saying “nevermore” which drives speaker to psychotic characteristic and when he calls the raven the devil this suggests that the speaker is lost it and is inhumane. The poem revolves around several themes, including suffering and fear. The speaker suffering from the raven by the speaker fearing the it.

This poem leaves me with some questions. On one of the most interesting stanzas in Edgar Allen Poe’s poem The Raven” in the beginning of stanza 15,

“Nevermore”.“Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil!—prophet still, if bird or devil!”.

The speaker is freaking out and is talking about how the raven is a devil. All because the raven kept on saying “nevermore” which drove the speaker nuts. And the speaker is asking the Raven lots of questions and demanding an answer but the only thing the raven says “nevermore”. This makes the speaker think that the raven is the devil or something evil that has come to hunt him. Perhaps The speaker knows what he did wrong to think that the devil has come. Which brings the reader to the discovery that the speaker is a murderer and he killed the girl who he speaks of in the poem — Lenore, which makes the spreaker full guilty and starts to panic so it be would seem normal. A big question about life that the line raises for me is, what makes someone insane? The poem answers this question with a “Yes”, by having the speaker calling a bird a devil and being scared of it because he thinks it the most logical thing to do and to prove to himself that he is indeed sane.

This poem leaves me with another question, in stanza 5 rests another interesting line.  The speaker says that he saw nothing in his chamber door but he hears tapping and when he opens the door, he finds nothing which scares him and after he breaks the silence by saying

“Lenore”. This line fits in with the poem because the speaker is losing it and saying crazy things that are making the speaker fear. In stanza 5

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,

Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;

But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,

And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, “Lenore?”

This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, “Lenore!”—

Merely this and nothing more.

This line is interesting because it’s the line where the speaker loses his sanity. When he says that “no dream nor mortal ever dreamed before”, this clearly states that what he dreamt it wasn’t sane. If anything that seems unreasonable shows up to speaker would most likely believe it. A question the line makes me feel is, what does it take to be sane? The poem answers it by stating that the speaker seen something that no sane person would ever think of. A big personal question about life the poem bring up for me is what determines insanity? What makes me feel that the poem answers the question by the inhumane acts the speaker is doing.  Also the word choice the speaker does it doesn’t seem like he is sane. More like the speaker is trying to prove to himself that he isn’t insane. Some ideas that have been amplified by this poem is that people don’t know whether they are sane or insane. People might think that they are sane and do acts that make them feel that way ,but their acts can be quite the opposite. Like by the speaker claiming that the raven is the devil making himself feel better about his sanity. At the beginning of stanza 15

“Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil!—prophet still, if bird or devil!”

This proves that the speaker is convincing himself that the bird is evil so he could feel like he is sane. However the speaker is acting quite the opposite because he is talking to a raven like a person convinced that the raven will respond in his last glimpse of hope.

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CC BY-SA 4.0 Humane and Inhumane: What’s The Difference? by Octavio is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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