Creating the Melancholic Tone in “The Raven” Edgar Allan Poe’s "The Raven," representing Poe’s own introverted crisis of hell, is unusually moving and attractive to the reader. In his essay entitled "The Philosophy of Composition," Poe reveals his purpose in writing “The Raven” and also describes the work of composing the poem as being carefully calculated in all aspects. Of all melancholy topics, Poe wished to use the one that was universally understood, death; specifically death involving a beautiful woman. The apparent tone in Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” seemingly represents a very painful condition of mind, an intellect sensitive to madness and the abyss of melancholy brought upon by the death of a beloved lady. The parallelism of Poe’s own personal problems, with those of the narrator in “The Raven,” his calculated use of symbolism, and the articulation of language through the use of the raven’s refrain, the reader becomes aware of Poe’s prominent tone of melancholy.
A strong device for the melancholic tone in "The Raven" is Poe’s use of the first person. Poe used the first person by virtue of the situations in "The Raven" taking direct influence from Poe's life experiences. Among many other misfortunes, including living a life of poverty and being orphaned at a young age, Poe’s beloved wife Virginnia, died after a long illness. The narrator’s sorrow for the lost Lenore is paralleled with Poe’s own grief regarding the death of his wife. Confined in the chamber are memories of her who had frequented it.
These ghostly recollections cultivate an enormous motive in the reader to know and be relieved of the bewilderment that plagues the narrator and consequently Poe himself; the narrator ponders whether he will see his wife in the afterlife. After Virginnia’s lingering death, Poe tried to relieve his grief by drinking. A parallelism is formed in “The Raven” between the condescending actions of the raven towards the narrator and the taunting of alcohol towards Poe. The raven condescends that Poe will never see his lost love again when uttering “forget this lost Lenore” (83). Alcohol taunts Poe into ceaseless depression and caused Poe to have a life-long problem with alcoholism, which eventually led to his death.
In a similar manner to which the alcohol explored Poe’s inner devastation, the raven delves into explo...
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...ghout Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven,” to underscore the developing tone of melancholy. The refrain accomplishes this accentuation through its creation of an awareness of the inevitable; realizing that the raven’s response to any questions posed will be “Nevermore,” the character inquires about his lost love, the “rare amd radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore,” perhaps purposefully to experience further torture and anguish (95). Through "The Raven," Poe makes a personal, introverted hell strangely mesmerizing and tasteful to all. The Gothic tone of “The Raven,” as explained by Poe in his essay entitled "The Philosophy of Composition," has greatly influenced my own and presumably other readers understanding of literature with regards to probing of the realms of madness and melancholy. Poe's haunting linguistic descriptions, unnerving parallelism between his life and the poem, and alarming yet purposeful exploration of symbolism and situation, draws the reader into spheres of insanity which at once explores the soul and pleases the reader.
Poe, Edgar Allan. "William Wilson," "Hop-Frog," "The Raven," Poetry and Tales. New York: The Library of America, 1984.
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