An Analysis of Poe’s Theme of Melancholy in The Raven
By Taylor Isbell (Period 5)
Personal tragedy, unfortunately, was a recurring theme in Edgar Allan Poe’s life. Marred by alcoholism, abuse, depression, and rejection by the world around him, Poe created a whole state of mind, for which he is extremely well-known, based on the harsh situations that he experienced. This state of mind is one of gloominess and depression, and is a major theme in his poetry and other works. Poe utilized this theme of “melancholy” in order to portray his ominous perspective of life to the audience, and it is illustrated in one of his most famous poems: The Raven.
To understand Poe’s intention of creating ...view middle of the document...
In such a search it would have been absolutely impossible to overlook the word “Nevermore.” (Poe, p.4)
He further explains this choice by emphasizing the long “o” as the most “sonorous” vowel sound. The word “nevermore” highlights the somber fact that Lenore is gone, which is quite a gloomy, or melancholy thought.
Another key element that Poe utilizes in this poem is the creature that he chose to speak the word “nevermore.” A raven is, as Poe puts it, “the bird of ill omen,” so obviously the use of this creature would help establish his desired melancholy tone. Interestingly, though, there is more behind the employment of this sinister fowl. In his article, Poe elucidates the previous statement:
…I did not fail to perceive, in short, that the
difficulty lay in the reconciliation of this monotony with the exercise of reason on the part of the creature repeating the word. Here, then, immediately arose the idea of a non-reasoning creature capable of speech; and, very naturally, a parrot, in the first instance, suggested itself, but was superseded forthwith by a Raven, as equally capable of speech, and infinitely more in keeping with the intended tone. (Poe, p.4)
The key to this excerpt lies in the first two sentences—if Poe chose a creature with the intellect to reason, like a human, then the power of the word “nevermore” would be greatly reduced. A “non-reasoning” creature, on the other hand, is much more effective in this situation because without the power to reason, the creature can logically speak nothing but the obvious truth, which in this case is that Lenore will nevermore live.
According to his article, Poe created The Raven based off nothing more than aesthetic values. Throughout the piece, he meticulously explains the use of various elements that he utilized in The Raven. For instance, in the 20th paragraph he discusses the reason behind using death as the base of The Raven:
Now, never losing sight of the object supremeness, or perfection, at all points, I asked myself..Of all melancholy topics, what, according to the universal understanding of mankind, is the most melancholy? Death was the obvious reply. And when, I said, is this most melancholy of topics most poetical? From what I have already explained at some length, the answer, here also, is obvious. When it...