"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, and another a la Darth Vader). Right here is yet another, this time by Stan Lee. And still another, by Basil Rathbone here.
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. The Simpsons also did an Animated Adaptation of it for its first Treehouse of Horror episode, narrated by James Earl Jones. While it still has the show's typical humor, as well as snarky commentary from Bart & Lisa, it's a surprisingly straight and faithful version.
This poem provides examples of:
- Added Alliterative Appeal:First stanza: While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,Second stanza: For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore
- Aluminum Christmas Trees: Ravens actually can be taught to talk, and the normalcy of this is a significant aspect of the poem. There's even video of a raven that's been taught to say "nevermore".
- Arc Words: "Quoth the Raven: 'Nevermore.'" The raven just says this one word over and over. It's unknown whether the raven is just an ordinary bird that's repeating a word over and over, or if it's some sort of supernatural entity sent to torment the narrator.
- Creepy Crows: The ominous-looking black bird is a raven. 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 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 "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.
- 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. The narrator's lover, Lenore, is long dead, and the story catches him during a particular moment of grief. The raven showing up when it does just makes him go insane because he projects his own grief and sadness onto it.
- 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.
- 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 is never given a name, and neither is the raven. Really, Lenore is the only thing keeping the poem from being a Nameless Narrative.
- Nothing Is Scarier:
- Even when the raven is visible and on the perch, the raven does nothing beyond responding with the word "Nevermore".
- The narrator, after hearing a tapping on his door, opens it. "Darkness there, and nothing more." The only thing that comes out of this is one solitary raven; nothing else jumps out at him, and nothing attacks him.
- 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..." the narrator reflected on the love that he lost.
- 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.
Here, then, immediately arose the idea of a non -reasoning creature capable of speech; and, very naturally, a parrot, in the first instance, suggested itself, but was superseded forthwith by a Raven, as equally capable of speech, and infinitely more in keeping with the intended tone.
- As Poe himself said in The Philosophy of Composition, parrot was the first bird that came to his mind, but just wasn't ominous enough:
- 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, all because a bird showed up.
- Say My Name: The narrator laments "Lenore", the love of his life who previously died.
- The Thing That Would Not Leave: The narrator repeatedly tells the raven to Get Out! after he begins to slowly lose his mind. The bird stays right where it is, just repeating the word "nevermore" over and over.