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From “Nothing More” To “Always”

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  • Pages: 3
  • Word count: 538
  • Category: The Raven

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Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” is a poem that focuses on the idea of madness. The speaker is forced into a dilemma known as the Fantastic, in which he is unable to determine if the world around him is real or if he is insane. The poem itself supports the idea that the man is insane.

The poem’s stanzas start off slowly then begin to crescendo with great intensity. In the first stanza, the man expresses that he is exhausted and that the tapping at his door is merely some visitor, “nothing more.” From “nothing more,” the poem flows to “evermore,” and then to a rhythmic “nevermore.” By doing this, the poem creates the basis for insanity, of doing the same thing over expecting different results. As the poem goes on it seems to get faster, adding to the suspense. The speaker persistently pleads with the raven in the hopes he will get to see his Lenore once more, only to be consistently rejected. The power behind every “nevermore” grows in contrast to the speaker’s sanity.

The fifth stanza tells us the key moment when the man’s psyche truly deteriorates, unable to tell what is real and what is a dream but still conscious as to what is going on (Poe 25-26). At this point, the man enters a state of psychosis, a symptom of insanity. Frustrated and struggling to grasp onto reality, the desperate man chose Lenore to be his anchor. He is unable to accept the raven’s reply of “nevermore,” becoming even more confused and increasingly angry with the raven, calling it a demonic creature. All of his reactions to the raven are symptoms of mental illness.

The initial scene that we are given to the poem is by far the biggest indicator that nothing is real. The raven clearly had a motive to entire the man’s chambers and knew exactly where it wanted to perch itself. Who in their right, sane mind would want a raven, a pretty decently sized bird, in their bedroom? Most people would be flailing their arms and yelling at the bird to leave. The man, however, almost seems to have invited the bird in. Not only this but the raven is able to understand every word the man says and offers a coherent reply.

We the reader can assume that the speaker was insane before the poem even starts and are able to list the correlations between his actions and his emotional instability. From reading the poem we know that the man lost his wife whom he loved dearly, spiraling into a deep depressive state. He has secluded himself away in his cold chamber room, a form of social withdrawal. The raven is most likely a coping mechanism his brain created to help him accept that he will never see his beloved again. This backfired and only seemed to push him deeper into his lunacy. When he does not get the answer he wants from the raven, he gets angry and tells it to return back to the underworld that it came from (Poe 43). Sadness, fear, anxiety, strong feelings of anger, hallucinations, inability to cope, and denial are all attributes of insanity (Smitha).  

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