Poe's Poetry

Symbolism in The Raven

In "The Raven," Edgar Allan Poe demonstrates his mastery of symbolism and repetition. He uses these devices to gradually build anticipation, climaxing at the third stanza from the end with the speaker entreating the bird whether there is word from the after world of his lost love, Lenore. While the bird's repetition of the word “Nevermore” is objectively nonsensical, the speaker gives the utterance context and allows the word to agonize himself. Poe’s use of symbolism in The Raven gives the poem a needed air of drama. The ambiguity of the chosen symbols combines the dramatic feel with a sense of the ordinary to create the desired effect on the reader.

The most obvious symbol in the poem is the raven itself. Poe decided to use a raven because it fulfilled his need for a nonsensical creature to repeat the ominous word and could also stand for the speaker as an omen of death (Poe). The raven is also an ordinary bird and adds to the overall mundane back story of this psychological otherworldly tale. A key component in The Raven is this face-value approach. The answers to all the questions posed by the speaker are already known; therefore, his continued questioning of the non-reasoning raven serves to illustrate the...

Join Now to View Premium Content

GradeSaver provides access to 741 study guide PDFs and quizzes, 4441 literature essays, 1449 sample college application essays, 183 lesson plans, and ad-free surfing in this premium content, “Members Only” section of the site! Membership includes a 10% discount on all editing orders.

Join Now

Already a member? Log in