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Romanticism, Poe, and The Raven

 

     The era of Romanticism spans from the late 1700's to the mid 1800's

following the French Revolution; therefore, "Romanticism" encompasses

characteristics of the human mind in addition to the particular time in

history when these qualities became dominant in culture.   Romanticism

depicts an artistic movement which emerged from reaction against dominant

attitudes and approaches of the 18th century.  Romanticism established

realism in literature through creativity, innovation, exploration, and

vivid imagery.  By expanding beyond the definition of love, Romanticism,

accented by mystery, delves into the strange and fantastic aspects of human

experiences.  "To escape from society, the Romantics turned their interests

to remote and faraway places; the medieval past; folklore and legends, and

nature and the common man."  Edgar Allen Poe is noted as one of the few

American "Romantic" poets.  Poe's poem "The Raven" portrays Romanticism as

characterized by emotion, exotica, and imagination.

 

     A friend of Edgar Allen Poe, R. H. Horne, wrote of "The Raven", "the

poet intends to represent a very painful condition of the mind, as of an

imagination that was liable to topple over into some delirium or an abyss

of melancholy, from the continuity of one unvaried emotion."  Edgar Allen

Poe, author of "The Raven," played on the reader's emotions.  The man in "

The Raven" was attempting to find comfort from the remembrance of his lost

love.  By turning his mind to Lenore and recalling how her frame will never

again bless the chair in which he now reposes, he is suddenly overcome with

grief, whereby the reader immediately feels sorry for the lonely man.  The

reader pities the man's state of mind.

 

     In addition to an emotional characteristic, Poe also portrays the

exotic.  Exotic means "unnatural".  Exotic means a raven that speaks only

one word.  Exotic means a bird that refuses to leave and insists in staying

in one place.  Finally, exotic means a life of torment of the speakers soul.

 The man is drawn to the bird to seek an answer to the monotonous reply of "

Nevermore".

 

     Finally, "The Raven: is characterized by imagination.  The man

imagines that a raven is a godsend, intended to relieve him of his anguish.

The man imagines that like all other blessings of his life, the bird will

leave.  The man's imagination rebukes the bird.  The man calls the bird a "

thing of evil".  The reader imagines a lonely, frightened, old man who has

suffered a great loss.

 

     "The Raven is a poem written during the Romantic Era.  Romanticism

doesn't mean that a literary work has to be about love.  Ironically,  "The

Raven" is both "romantic" and from the "Romantic" period.  Poe's poem is

about a man's "lost love".  The man's emotions causes him to become exotic

(shouting like a maniac for the bird to take its leave) and finally to

imagine all sorts of weird things (a raven that refuses to leave and speaks

only one word; "Nevermore").

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