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Symbolism is a style applied in literature in which symbols are used to signify qualities and ideas. This occurs by giving these symbols some meanings that differ from the literal meanings. Symbolism has varied forms, with some instances involving the use of an object to represent another object or a living creature to represent another living creature or even an object to represent a living creature. Besides, an event, word or even action, also act as symbols (Deacon 1). For instance, a smile often symbolises friendship. Such symbols are used to enhance deeper comprehension in a given direction about a specific situation. This study is geared towards identifying the use of symbolism in ‘The Raven’ by Edgar Allan Poe.
Being more of a narrative, the poem begins on a sorrowful December evening when the narrator had just lost his love, Lenore. The narrator is seated alone past midnight, besides a fire which is almost going off (Poe 2). He then hears a knock at the door and opens only to find no one. This reoccurs, with a hit on the window, on opening it, a raven flies in. Strangely, the raven does not fly around but sits on the Athena statue, which is above the door. The only human speaks to a human, but unimaginably, the narrator speaks to the Raven, interrogating it on its name and more. Further and surprisingly, the raven responds though irrelevantly by saying, ‘nevermore.’ The narrator, on the other hand, being a human, is not surprised at this conversation, but keeps up the interrogation. Despite the different questions raised by the narrator, the raven only answers with ‘nevermore,’ which the narrator dislikes. Eventually, the narrator gets into deep sorrows about his lost love.
Poe used the presence of the raven to symbolise his mournfulness and the endless remembrance of his dead love. Besides, the sorrows enhanced by the loss propels the conversation between the narrator and the Raven (Carroll 1). The raven in return utilises the little human words it knows by making the narrator know that his love, Lenore, will never return hence they will not meet; that is the meaning of ‘nevermore.’ This is the last answer that the narrator expects, as he strongly desires to meet his love to gain consolation. Towards the end of the poem, it is revealed that the Raven possesses a demon’s eyes with its shadow within the narrator’s soul. It is even revealed when the narrator tries to command the raven to go back to the Plutonian shore, after getting the ‘nevermore’ answer. This also portrays the fact that the raven symbolises the embodiment of evil, that demons generate in the sorrowful period. Use of the raven and its strange behaviour enhances the reader’s ability to note the power working behind it, (evil powers). The prolonged conversation also symbolises the expression of the narrator’s desire to meet his lost love. The fact in the raven’s response symbolises the truth about death, in that the dead never come back to life.
- Carroll, H. “Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven: Summary and Analysis.” 2017.
- Deacon, T. The Symbol Concept. New York: UC Berkeley, 2011.
- Poe, E.A. The Raven. Washington, DC, 1802.