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Literature / The Raven

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Quoth the raven, nevermore.Note 

The Raven

"The Raven" is a narrative poem of the Gothic horror genre published in 1845. Oft parodied and referenced, it is the most famous work by author Edgar Allan Poe, and to this day is one of the most well-known pieces of English poetry ever written.

It tells the tale of an unidentified narrator who is mourning the loss of his love, Lenore, when he is interrupted by the tapping of a raven whose constant (yet strangely fitting) repetition of the word "Nevermore" increasingly aggravates him to the point of madness.

Here and here you can listen to it in the voice of Christopher Lee (two separate readings). And here's one by John de Lancie. There's also one by Tay Zonday. Here's another by Vincent Price. And here's one by James Earl Jones (here it is without music). Right here is yet another, this time by Stan Lee.


Roger Corman's 1963 film version is a very loose adaptation, mostly Played for Laughs, starring Vincent Price, Peter Lorre and Boris Karloff, with an early appearance from Jack Nicholson.

The Alan Parsons Project based a song on the poem, as did Queen. Gustave Doré illustrated it too. Another one, purely instrumental, was done by Nox Arcana.

Omnia beautifully set the words to harp music. See it here.

Amusingly parodied in the poem: ''The End of the Raven'' by Poe's Cat.

Night Gallery showcased a story based on it — more or less. You may also be familiar with a certain adaptation by The Simpsons


This poem provides examples of:

  • Added Alliterative Appeal: Frequently.
  • Adult Fear: How about never being able to see someone you love again — not even in Heaven?
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: Ravens actually can be taught to talk, and the normalcy of this is a significant aspect of the poem.
  • Arc Words: "Quoth the Raven: 'Nevermore.'"
  • Creepy Crows: Raven the ominous-looking black bird. Shout Outs to Poe's version abound.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: The Raven itself doesn't seem to be evil per se, contrary to most media portrayals, just a reminder of the narrator's lost love.
  • Despair Event Horizon: There really is nothing necessarily supernatural about the raven. The entire poem is about the narrator projecting his own frustrated grief onto a random bird, and losing his mind in the process.
    • One of the narrator's saner speculations is that the bird is just a normal raven, randomly mimicking some other individual who'd suffered this trope, and moaned "Never-nevermore" where it could overhear.
  • Downer Ending: The narrator is driven to desperate madness and the raven remains in his house, still reminding him of what he has lost.
  • Feathered Fiend: Played with in regards to the titular raven. While it's not actively evil (heck, it's not even clear if the bird is real), its presence still haunts and torments the narrator and it spends most of its pagetime reminding him of his loss.
    "Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend, I shrieked, upstarting
  • Get Out!: After having enough of the Raven mocking him, the narrator yells at it to "Take thy beak from out my heart and take thy form from off my door!". The bird refuses to leave.
  • Go Mad from the Isolation: The narrator comes across as a lonely man, and he grows increasingly desperate as he keeps venting at a bird that mostly just stares at him.
  • Irony: 'The Raven' could count as an ironic or sarcastic fairytale. It starts with "Once upon a" which is a foolproof aspect of classic fairytales and then goes on to deconstruct the idea that in a fairytale the good guys always win and get the girl. In 'The Raven', the narrator, our hero, not only loses his mind, his beloved wife is dead and lost, too.
  • It Was a Dark and Stormy Night: Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary...
  • It's Probably Nothing: The narrator repeatedly tries to dismiss the noises he hears as only the wind.
  • The Lost Lenore: Trope Namer.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Both possibilities are briefly touched on - whether the bird is/was sent by some unnatural force, or if it was just someone's pet taught to utter a single word (there is a rumor that early drafts of the poem featured a parrot, though this is dubious).
    • Another interpretation is that the narrator's grief is slowly driving him insane, and that the raven was either a hallucination or it was real but the narrator only thought it was talking when it actually wasn't.
  • No Name Given: The narrator.
  • Nothing Is Scarier:
    • "Darkness there, and nothing more."
    • Even when the raven is visible and on the perch, the raven does nothing beyond responding with the word "Nevermore".
  • Ominous Knocking: The story opens with a late-night knock that first confuses, then frightens the bereaved narrator. The knocking continues for six stanzas, each making him more disturbed and uncomfortable- this lasts even after he opens the door, to find nobody there. Then he finds it was a raven knocking at the window, and things just get worse from there.
  • Once Upon a Time: "Once upon a midnight dreary..."
  • Polly Wants a Microphone: The Ur Example, in horror terms. The narrator begs of the bird to answer increasingly desperate questions about the afterlife and the hope of reuniting with his Lost Lenore, but the raven constantly answers, "Nevermore," rather pessimistically. Maybe if he worded his questions differently he'd get better answers.
  • Posthumous Character: Lenore, of course, who is dead before the narrative begins but whose name is uttered quite often throughout.
  • Rhyming with Itself: The end of the fourth and fifth lines in each paragraph use the same word. Said word also rhymes with a different word on line 2, and the arc word on line 6.
  • Rule of Symbolism: The raven perching on top of a bust of Pallas (an epithet of Athena, the Greek Goddess of wisdom), represents the supernatural taking control of rationality. In the context of the poem, the narrator's rationality is slowly eroding by supernatural thoughts.
  • Sanity Slippage: And how. The narrator goes from mostly sane, if a bit grief-stricken, to a catatonic wreck on the floor within a matter of minutes.
  • Say My Name: Lenore. Lenore!

Quoth the raven

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