The Raven — A Literary Analysis

A small, dark, 19th century-style  room with a raven statue in front of a sunlit window.
A small, dark, 19th century-style  room with a raven statue in front of a sunlit window.
Poe’s dorm room at the University of Virginia, now used for induction into the Raven Society. Via Wikimedia Commons.
A sketch of a man holding open a window as a raven flies in.
A sketch of a man holding open a window as a raven flies in.
“Open Here I Flung the Shutter.” Édouard Manet, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Setting

A good place to start is the setting of the piece: a library at midnight in December. Truly Poe could not have picked a darker setting; midwinter’s December nearly anywhere in the Northern hemisphere is the coldest and darkest time of the year, with sunset occurring earlier than in any other season.

The Characters

There are very few characters actually present in The Raven. There is Lenore, present only in the pained memory of the speaker; she is his lost love, the reason for his late-night broodings, “the rare and radiant maiden [named by] the angels.” It is her absence from the poem that makes her important.

Interpreting The Raven

There are many interpretations of “The Raven”; as a simple, shock value horror piece; as a warning against the dangers of obsession and grief; as a piece with a deeper meaning that perhaps cannot even be explained. It certainly causes reflection on the meaning of death, and what lies beyond it, in that silent night the raven flies out of, and in the “shadow that lies floating on the floor.”

Hello! I’m Cat, author and amateur fandom historian based out of Georgia. I write about literature, theater, gaming, and fandom. Personal work: catwebling.com.

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