Literature Symbols in "The Raven" by Edgar Allan Poe - 1122 Words | Essay Example (2023)

Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” (1844) is often discussed by many critics and readers as one of the most mysterious and ‘dark’ poems of the 19th century because of its rich gloomy symbolism. “The Raven” is the poetic narrative which represents the sad story of the young man who spends his days in despair because of losing his beloved Lenore. To accentuate the narrator’s sufferings, Poe uses a lot of symbols which are closely associated with the ideas of death, sorrow, and grief.

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In spite of the fact that there are many symbols of different types in Poe’s “The Raven”, such symbols of darkness and depression as December, the raven, the Night’s Plutonian shore, and the repetition of the word ‘Nevermore’ are most vivid to represent the idea of the narrator’s despair because they serve to emphasize the threatening darkness and the atmosphere of loss surrounding the poem’s melancholic narrator.

Poe’s approach to using the symbols of darkness in “The Raven” can be discussed as rather powerful and intriguing because all the mentioned symbols are colored with the emotional descriptions presented in such words as “weak,” “bleak,” “dying,” or “ghost” (Poe 1-8). Thus, the first significant symbol which appears in the poem is the symbol of December. People are inclined to associate December with the beginning of winter as the ‘dead’ season.

Poe uses the dark symbol of December while presenting the settings for describing the narrator’s sorrow because of losing the beloved woman. As a result, the symbol of the “bleak December” is effective to emphasize the narrator’s ‘weak’ state of depression during the days of noting ‘dying’ embers and their ‘ghosts’ and focusing on “fantastic terrors” (Poe 1, 7-8, 14).

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If the symbol of December is used to demonstrate the gloomy settings for the narrator’s sorrow associated with the death, the author’s use of the word ‘darkness’ provides the readers with the more obvious understanding of the narrator’s loneliness and preoccupation with depressing thoughts. Having opened the door to know who was tapping, the narrator can see only darkness and “nothing more” (Poe 24).

Focusing on these symbols, Carlson notes that the poem’s setting “in December, at midnight, in the midst of a tempest, in a small chamber that is the only spot of light amid overwhelming darkness, suggests that the threat of nothingness is real” (Carlson 98). Symbols of December and darkness accentuate the narrator’s loneliness in his chamber where he can be accompanied only with his depressing thoughts and sorrow.

The raven as the main symbol of the poem appears only in the seventh stanza of the poem when the narrator is exhausted because of impossibility to solve the mystery of tapping at the door, and the focus on this bird adds the new meaning to the narrator’s sufferings and melancholic thoughts. The raven is described in the poem with the help of such words as “ebony,” “grim,” “ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous,” and “bird or devil” (Poe 43-46, 71, 85). Moreover, the raven’s eyes are of the “demon’s that is dreaming” (Poe 105).

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These words are associated in the readers’ mind with blackness, the bad, and evil. That is why the black raven appearing in the narrator’s chamber can only foreshadow the dramatic future for the character which is full of sufferings and even possible death. On the other hand, the symbol of the raven is the answer to the narrator’s questions about the possibility to recreate his relations with Lenore.

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Thus, in his work, Abu-Melhim states that “the Raven represents the harsh reality of what we can never recreate” (Abu-Melhim 117). From this point, the raven as the symbol of death and grief is also used to stress on the character’s inability to avoid his fate of losing his beloved Lenore and even losing his own life in depression and despair.

The symbol of the raven is closely associated with the dark symbol of the Night’s Plutonian shore the understanding of which is possible only with references to the role of Pluto in classical mythology. Pluto is the god of underworld that is why the Night’s Plutonian shore is the symbol of the afterlife which is closely connected with the symbol of the raven in the poem because the raven is discussed as coming from that shore.

The poem’s narrator tries to learn what name the raven has in the mystic world of the Night’s Plutonian shore, and he hears only “Nevermore” (Poe 46-48). The symbol of the Night’s Plutonian shore seems to explain the role of the symbol of the raven in the poem and to accentuate the idea of darkness because the narrator is sure that the raven came from the underworld, and his place is there (Poe 98).

The presence of these symbols in their combination serves to make the atmosphere of death in the poem more obvious and thrilling. If the darkness was presented in the first poem’s stanzas only in the form of melancholic descriptions and symbols of depression and despair, the symbols of the raven and the Night’s Plutonian shore make the poem more mystic and dramatic while evoking the close associations with death.

The raven also plays such an important role in the poem as the Prophet, and the raven has the right to provide answers to the narrator’s questions about his fate and his beloved Lenore. The raven’s only answer to all the character’s questions is ‘Nevermore.’ This word is repeated in the poem many times in order to accentuate the darkness, which is associated with the observed reality in contrast to the narrator’s hopes and desires.

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The answer ‘Nevermore’ said by the raven as “the thing of evil” is directly connected with the narrator’s chances to see Lenore one more time, and this word creates the atmosphere of the lost hopes and absolute despair which intensifies the whole impression of darkness and shadow (Poe 91).

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Carlson pays attention to the fact that “the shadow of the bird of darkness is a symbolic bit of larger darkness threatening to blot out the brightness briefly glimpsed in Lenore” (Carlson 98). Thus, the reader understands that the symbol of the raven and the bird’s word are used to accentuate the gloomy fate of the narrator and the threat of death.

To emphasize the idea of darkness as reflecting the narrator’s thoughts and feelings in the poem “The Raven,” Edgar Allan Poe uses many vivid symbols which produce strong associations with death and despair. These important symbols are December, the raven, the Night’s Plutonian shore, and the word ‘Nevermore’ as the bird’s answer to the narrator’s questions. To make these symbols more effective and striking, Poe uses many emotionally-colored words in order to accentuate the depth of the used dramatic symbols.

Works Cited

Abu-Melhim, Abdel-Rahman. “Explicating Poe’s Raven from a Psycho-Linguistic Perspective”. Studies in Literature and Language 7.3 (2013): 113-118. Print.

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Carlson, Eric. A Companion to Poe Studies. USA: Greenwood Publishing Group, 1996. Print.

Poe, Edgar Allan. The Raven. 2013. Web.

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What is an example of symbolism in the raven? ›

The titular raven represents the speaker's unending grief over the loss of Lenore. Ravens traditionally carry a connotation of death, as the speaker himself notes when he refers to the bird as coming from “Night's Plutonian shore,” or the underworld.

What does a raven symbolize in literature? ›

Because of its black plumage, croaking call, and diet of carrion, the raven is often associated with loss and ill omen. Yet, its symbolism is complex. As a talking bird, the raven also represents prophecy and insight. Ravens in stories often act as psychopomps, connecting the material world with the world of spirits.

What are 2 examples of alliteration in the raven? ›

Alliteration Examples
  • Line 1 – “weak and weary”
  • Line 10- “surcease of sorrow”
  • Line 26 – “doubting, dreaming dreams”
  • Line 37 – “flirt and flutter”
  • Line 45 – “shorn and shaven”

What are 2 examples of imagery in the raven? ›

"And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming, and the lamp-light o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor..." This description of the raven that haunts the narrator expresses the demonic nature of the bird.

What does Nevermore symbolize in The Raven? ›

Alas, Poe's oft-repeated theme emphasizes the importance of memory, because life consists of continuous loss. Poe uses “evermore” because loss will always be part of life; “nevermore,” because we can never hold onto what we have or who we love, McGann said.

What are 3 allusions in The Raven? ›

Pluto is the god of the underworld. The shore is that of the River Styx, which souls must cross to reach the underworld. Gilead: Gilead is a region in Jordan, famed in the Bible for producing botanical medicines. The “balm in Gilead” has become a common metaphor for a universal cure.

What does crow symbolizes in literature? ›

Evil and Death Symbolism. Of the Crow. The crow has been used as a sign of evil and death for thousands of years, especially by European and American culture.

What is the Crow a symbol of? ›

What do Crows symbolize? In modern western culture, crows symbolize death, the afterlife, wisdom, intelligence, adaptability, prescience, fortune, destiny, transformation, and the future. Crow symbolism is both positive and negative, and they're seen as both good and bad omens depending on where in the world you are.

What do birds symbolize in literature? ›

In FAIRY TALES, those who understand the language of the bird are often able to attain special knowledge, and people are often transformed into birds. They are thought and imagination, transcendence and divinity, freedom from materialism. May also stand for the metamorphosis of a lover.

What are 5 alliteration examples? ›

Alliteration Tongue Twisters

Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers. If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers, where's the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked? A good cook could cook as many cookies as a good cook who could cook cookies. I saw a saw that could out saw any other saw I ever saw.

What is an example of personification in The Raven? ›

The fireplace in the study, the curtains by the window, and even the shadow from the lamplight are all personified. The most intense personification is reserved for the raven itself, which sometimes seems to be literally sentient in a human-like way.

What is a good example of alliteration? ›

Alliteration is a stylistic literary device that refers to the repetition of a closely connected series of words that have the same beginning consonant sound. For example, here's an all-too-true story that repeats the beginning “b” sound as a stressed syllable: “Barbara baked banana bread, but it burned.”

What are 4 examples of imagery? ›

21 Imagery Examples to Elevate Your Writing
  • Visual Imagery. Visual imagery appeals to our sense of sight. ...
  • Auditory Imagery. Auditory imagery engages our sense of hearing. ...
  • Olfactory Imagery. Olfactory imagery relates to our sense of smell. ...
  • Gustatory Imagery. ...
  • Tactile Imagery. ...
  • Kinesthetic Imagery. ...
  • Organic Imagery.
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What are 3 examples of a imagery? ›

Literary Imagery Examples
  • Visual: appeals to our sense of sight. The crimson apple glistened in her hand.
  • Auditory: appeals to our sense of sound. The roaring thunder frightened the little boy.
  • Olfactory: appeals to our sense of smell. ...
  • Gustatory: appeals to our sense of taste. ...
  • Tactile: appeals to our sense of touch.

What does Lenore symbolize in the raven? ›

She may represent idealized love, beauty, truth, or hope in a better world. She is "rare and radiant" we are told several times, an angelic description, perhaps symbolic of heaven. Lenore may symbolize truth: the narrator cannot help but think of her, and her ubiquitous, yet elusive, nature haunts the narrative.

What does the crow symbolize in Edgar Allan Poe? ›

Poe said the raven is meant to symbolize "Mournful and Never-ending Remembrance". He was also inspired by Grip, the raven in Barnaby Rudge: A Tale of the Riots of Eighty by Charles Dickens.

How is the raven sitting on the bust of Athena symbol? ›

In "The Raven," the bust of Pallas symbolizes wisdom and rationality. According to Greek mythology, Athena Pallas is a goddess of wisdom. In the poem, the raven decides to perch on Pallas' bust, which symbolizes a threat to rational thinking and sanity.

What are three examples of Gothic literature in The Raven? ›

“The Raven” contains many elements that point to the narrative's Gothic nature: a lonely character in a state of deep emotion, the cold and dark of a midnight in December.

What line is alliteration in The Raven? ›

One of the most famous lines from the poem that includes alliteration is ''Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before.

What are the 4 allusions? ›

Types of allusion
  • Historical – An allusion to a historical event or period. ...
  • Mythological – An allusion to a mythological figure or story. ...
  • Literary – An allusion to a literary text or figure. ...
  • Religious – An allusion to a religious text, story, or figure.

What does the wolf symbolize? ›

The Native Wolf Symbol represents loyalty, strong family ties, good communication, education, understanding, and intelligence. Of all land animals, the Wolf has the strongest supernatural powers and is the most accomplished hunter.

What do wolves symbolize in literature? ›

The literature does not show the wolf to be merely a natural predator. More than an actual thief of livestock, wolves became symbols of less tangible human fears. They have been linked to the devil in the medieval bestiaries or even immorality in the stories of the wolfmonk.

What is the symbolism of the wolf and the raven? ›

The relationship between the wolf and raven is the stuff of myths and legends for Native Americans and other groups around the world. Both Raven and Wolf were important spiritual figures to these cultures. Among the Norse, to see a wolf and raven together was a good omen for success in an upcoming battle.

What does a snake symbolize? ›

Historically, serpents and snakes represent fertility or a creative life force. As snakes shed their skin through sloughing, they are symbols of rebirth, transformation, immortality, and healing. The ouroboros is a symbol of eternity and continual renewal of life.

What does a butterfly symbolize? ›

In its metamorphosis from the common, colorless caterpillar to the exquisite winged creature of delicate beauty, the butterfly has become a metaphor for transformation and hope; across cultures, it has become a symbol for rebirth and resurrection, for the triumph of the spirit and the soul over the physical prison, the ...

What does the black crow symbolize? ›

Black crows symbolize prophecy, transformation, change, and freedom. Black crows have quite strong symbolic and spiritual meanings attached to them from all sorts of different places, religions, and cultures. You can find them in many folk tales, movies, religious texts, and more.

What do feathers symbolize in literature? ›

The feather, for example, is a powerful symbol that signifies honor and a connection between the owner, the Creator, and the bird from which the feather came. It symbolizes trust, honor, strength, wisdom, power, and freedom.

What do wings symbolize in literature? ›

They not only represent the ability to fly, but also suggest the improvement of the subject. Winged creatures are often messengers of the gods, and they are a symbol of freedom and spirituality.

What do Robins represent? ›

For centuries, this tiny bird has been the symbol of good luck, happiness, rebirth - and sometimes even as a messenger for lost, loved ones. There are tales stretching back to Norse mythology where the robin is the protector from storms and lightning. And in Celtic folklore the robin is known as the Oak King of Summer.

Can alliteration be 2 words? ›

Another term for alliteration is “initial rhyme,” because it's literally the reverse of a rhyme—instead of repeating a sound at the end of two or more words, alliteration is repeating a sound at the beginning of two or more words.

What are 3 forms of alliteration? ›

Types of Alliteration
  • Sibilance. Among the easiest to hear and recognize of the types is sibilance. ...
  • Consonance. ...
  • Assonance. ...
  • Fricative Alliteration. ...
  • Plosive Alliteration. ...
  • Dental Alliteration. ...
  • Vocalic Alliteration. ...
  • General Alliteration.
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What are 3 personification examples? ›

Personification examples

The sun smiled down on us.” 'The story jumped off the page.” “The light danced on the surface of the water.”

What is an example of a simile in The Raven? ›

One of the similes used in "The Raven" is in the line, "On the morrow he will leave me, as my Hopes have flown before." The poem compares the man's hopes to the bird's flight, saying that his hope will soon fly away much as the bird will.

What are the 10 examples of personification? ›

50 Examples of Personification
  • Justice is blind and, at times, deaf.
  • Money is the only friend that I can count on.
  • The cactus saluted any visitor brave enough to travel the scorched land.
  • Jan ate the hotdog despite the arguments it posed to her digestive system.
  • The world does not care to hear your sad stories.

What are two examples of alliteration? ›

Alliteration is when two or more words that start with the same sound are used repeatedly in a phrase or a sentence. The repeated sound creates alliteration, not the same letter. For example, 'tasty tacos' is considered an alliteration, but 'thirty typists' is not, because 'th' and 'ty' don't sound the same.

Does an alliteration have to be 3 words? ›

To create alliteration, you need two or more words that start with the same consonant sound. It's important to focus on the sound rather than the letter because it is the sound that catches the audience's attention.

What are some 2 word alliterations? ›

Slithering snake” is an alliteration because both words start with the “s” sound. “Notable knight” is an alliteration because both words start with the “n” sound (even though they are written with different letters).

What is a good example of imagery? ›

Imagery using touch: After the long run, he collapsed in the grass with tired and burning muscles. The grass tickled his skin and sweat cooled on his brow. In this example, imagery is used to describe the feeling of strained muscles, grass's tickle, and sweat cooling on skin.

What is symbolism in literature? ›

What is symbolism in writing, and how does it work? Symbolism is the use of words or images to symbolize specific concepts, people, objects, or events. In some cases, symbolism is broad and used to communicate a work's theme, like Aslan the lion in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe as a symbol of Christ.

What is example of visual imagery? ›

Visual Imagery is about what writers can show the reader at a particular place; it could range from objects, other people, or something unusual. Let us take a look at the related example sentences: The white frost creeping up on the windowpane made her look at her car covered under a 3-inch thick blanket of the snow.

What's an example of symbolism? ›

Symbolism is the idea that things represent other things.

What we mean by that is that we can look at something — let's say, the color red — and conclude that it represents not the color red itself but something beyond it: for example, passion, or love, or devotion. Or maybe the opposite: infidelity.

What are the imagery in the poem? ›

Imagery is the name given to the elements in a poem that spark off the senses. Despite "image" being a synonym for "picture", images need not be only visual; any of the five senses (sight, hearing, touch, taste, smell) can respond to what a poet writes.

What are the 7 types of imagery? ›

There are seven distinct types of imagery:
  • Visual.
  • Auditory.
  • Olfactory.
  • Gustatory.
  • Tactile.
  • Kinesthetic.
  • Organic.

What are 5 examples of hyperbole? ›

Hyperbole examples
  • I'm so hungry, I could eat a horse.
  • My feet are killing me.
  • That plane ride took forever.
  • This is the best book ever written.
  • I love you to the moon and back.
  • The pen is mightier than the sword.
  • I've told you this 20,000 times.
  • Cry me a river.
30 May 2021

What is an example of imagery in a book? ›

Visual imagery: This draws on the sense of sight to create pictures in readers' heads; for example, “Her lips glistened red like ripe cherries.” Writers invoke color, size, etc., to help readers visualize scenes more vividly.

How is imagery used in a story? ›

Using imagery in your writing means writing tangibly with the five senses: sight, sound, taste, touch, smell. We often see sight and sound in writing, but if you can incorporate the less typical senses, combine them together, and use them creatively, you'll sculpt a much richer picture for your readers.

What does December symbolize in the raven? ›

Specifically, the month of December is “winter, nothing lives in the winter” (“Edgar Allan Poe's 'The Raven'”). December blatantly represents death. In addition, both midnight and December represent the end of something. Midnight signifies the end of a day, while December signifies the end of a year.

What clues does Poe give you to imply that the raven is a symbol rather than a literal creature? ›

Some Clues that poe gave the reader that imply the Raven is a symbol include the fact that the bird talks and the bird didn't move when sitting on the bust of Pallas.

Does the raven symbolize depression? ›

The Raven symbolizes a mournful, never-ending grief and sadness which is making the narrator more depressed. A raven symbolizes, bleak,, cold, stern, and his eyes have a dark, evil feeling of a demon. The raven has now sat upon the head structure of Pallas, which in greek mythology is the goddess of…

What does red death symbolize? ›

Red death. The red death in this short story symbolizes death. Although the "Red Death" isn't an actual disease, it is described in the story to have similar symptoms of the black death, which killed about 2 million people in medieval Europe. Once people were infected by the black death, they died quickly.

What does Lenoir symbolize? ›

French: nickname for a dark-haired or swarthy individual from noir 'black' with fused masculine definite article le. Source: Dictionary of American Family Names 2nd edition, 2022.

What does the purple curtain symbolize in the raven? ›

Two of the poem's scenic details are conspicuously purple: the curtain and the chair. In both Greco-Roman and Judeo-Christian symbolic systems, purple serves as a mark of class and aristocracy.

Who does Lenore symbolize? ›

Critics consider Lenore, the narrator's lost love, to be a representation of Poe's own deceased wife Virginia.

What does midnight symbolize in the raven? ›

Poe uses symbolism to create a strong tone for the poem. Midnight and December both symbolize something, the end. The hope of something new to happen. Midnight symbolizes the end of the day and start of a new day where things can get better.

What does the raven symbolize at the end of the poem? ›

In 'The Raven' the symbol is obvious. Poe himself meant the Raven to symbolize 'mournful, never-ending remembrance. ' Our narrator's sorrow for his lost, perfect maiden Lenore is the driving force behind his conversation with the Raven.

What are the most significant rhythmical and symbolic features of the raven? ›

The driving rhythm of “The Raven,” created by Poe's careful use of rhyme and meter, gives the poem its signature hypnotic sound and creepy atmosphere. The rhyme scheme is ABCBBB, and the B rhyme is always an “or” sound (Lenore, door, nevermore, etc.).

What does a Raven symbolize in art? ›

Then again, the raven (a larger relative of the crow) symbolizes gratitude and affection, wisdom, longevity, and fertility. The crow is a symbol of Christian solitude. Maybe most compelling, these birds in alchemy represent change. Intelligent and mysterious, they are blessed with keen sight.

Why is theme of the raven about death? ›

The Raven symbolically represents the personification of death itself and serves as a reminder of what the narrator has lost and his impending fate. The entire poem explores the metaphorical death of hope and the descent into melancholy that this death causes.

What do raven tattoos symbolize? ›

A tribal raven is a popular form of tattoo worn by those with an interest in Native American myths. Most tribes saw the raven as a bearer of wisdom as well as trickery, though oftentimes the positive outweighed the negative.

Does the raven have metaphors? ›

In the poem entitled the raven, a bird connotes the flight of the soul, and the bird is associated with a mystical power to act as an intermediary for heaven and earth. The metaphor in this poem is used almost frequently in the poem which seeks to personify a crow and make it appear like a soul.


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