The Power of The Raven Essay

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The Power of The Raven

What is the secret to the power of "The Raven"? The question may be unanswerable, but at least four key elements contribute to the poem's strange authority –compelling narrative structure, darkly evocative atmosphere, hypnotic verbal music, and archetypal symbolism. Although none of these elements was original to "The Raven," their masterful combination created a strikingly original and singularly arresting poem.

The key to understanding "The Raven" is to read it as a narrative poem. It is a narrative of haunting lyricality, to be sure, but its central impulse is to tell a memorable story. The hypnotic swing of the trochaic meter, the insistent chime of the internal rhymes, and its unforgettable refrain
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He hopes for the morning–the return of light and life–but tonight all he can do is brood on his dead love, "the lost Lenore," and feel the tangible horror of his current situation.

The story that now unfolds is simple, terrifying, and tragic. The narrator hears a mysterious tapping at his chamber door. He thinks at first it is a late night visitor, but opening the door, he finds only "Darkness there, and nothing more." (This initial glimpse into black nothingness will prove prophetic of his ultimate fate.) Half afraid, half wishful, the speaker whispers the name of his dead lover. Irrationally he hopes the visitor is her ghost. There comes no reply, however, except the echo of his own voice. Soon the tapping resumes–now at his window. Opening the shutter, he finds a Raven. (Poe capitalizes the bird to suggest it is no ordinary raven.) The bird flutters in and immediately perches on the bust of Pallas Athena, the classical goddess of wisdom.

By now Poe has already established the basic symbolic framework of the poem, which–characteristically for him–is both structurally simple and elaborately detailed. "The Raven" divides its characters and imagery into two conflicting worlds of light and darkness. Virtually every detail in the poem reflects one world or the other. Lenore, who is repeatedly described as "radiant" epitomizes the world of light–along with angels she has now joined. Other images of light include the white

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