Edgar Allen Poe have led a difficult life troubled by poverty and tragedy. Though largely unrecognized during his lifetime, his work has left a lasting mark on the literary world, one which bears a direct relationship with the life and perceptions of the author himself. This parallel relationship between Poe’s personal life and his work is evident in much of his work, such as his now famous poem, “The Raven”. This poem relates the dark agony and grief of the struggling poet stemming from the loss of his wife and cousin, Virginia, in 1842 (poemuseum.org, n.p.). In “The Raven”, Poe’s similar and repetitive word usage intermingled with the general rhythmic cadence of the poem enhances the memorable quality of the work, conveying a sense of rising emotion within the narrative in a directly personal manner.
Poe is effective in conveying the progression of his personal grief by building a sympathetic connection to the reader (Gioia, n.p.). Within the precise poetic structure of the work, he is able to rely on the repeated use of (N)evermore at the end of certain stanzas to achieve specific responses from his audience. Poe’s begins his narrative process directly, by drawing the reader’s attention to the idea of an innocent lost early in the poem: “For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels named Lenore— Nameless here for evermore.” (Poe, p.96). Playing on the anonymous and absolute nature of death as well as the notion of close family tragedy Poe is able to establish a timeless theme which continues to appeal to readers today. This first term, though far from positive, has no restrictive or negative connotation, but instead suggests eternity as an unavoidable destination.
Once this appeal is made and a connection and sympathy built between the narrator and reader, Poe begins to build momentum. When confronted by the visage of the Raven, the poet proceeds to reveal the deepening depression and mistrust which have followed his and his narrator’s losses. “’On the morrow he will leave me, as my Hopes have flown before.’—Then the bird said ‘Nevermore.’” (Poe, p.100). By this point, Poe has brought the reader forward in the emotional narrative, revealing the manic sorrow and bitterness of loss. This is the first of many repeated instances of Nevermore within the poem and is used as an unreliable reassurance. Poe then seeks to pitch the emotions of the reader to new heights progressing through confusion and danger to desperation. To do this, Poe repeats his use of the word, Nevermore, this time with a decidedly negative association. “’Is there—is there balm in Gilead?—tell me — tell me, I implore!’ Quoth the Raven ‘Nevermore.’” (Poe, p.103). In these lines the unbearable nature of the author’s loss and the impact it had on him as an individual is apparent and making the emotional meaning behind the words more memorable to the reader (Gioia, n.p.).
Much as the recurring tragedy of Poe’s life eventually left him broken, the poet concludes his poem with a final repetition of Nevermore, this time directly claiming the pain and depression of loss as his inheritance. “And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor Shall be lifted—Nevermore!”(Poe, p.104). Through his sympathetic connection to the reader Poe has conveyed a sense of his personal torment through the narrative, commanding recognition of the unjust suffering of loss on the bereaved. He has drawn a direct parallel between the tragic loss of wife Virginia and the intense emotional reactions present in “The Raven”.
Poe’s use of repetition to various effects, not only renders this poem infinitely memorable, but also increases the emotional impact of the poem (Gioia, n.p.). Poe successfully establishes and builds on a direct connection to his reader, driving home the progression of events in an intimate, personalized manner. It is this sentimental reaction provoked by Poe’s famous poem, ”The Raven”, which makes this work so memorable, and will continue to draw readers generation after generation
Gioia, Dana. “On Edgar Allen Poe’s ‘The Raven’.” danagioia.net. 1998. Web. Retrieved Nov 28 2011: http://www.danagioia.net/essays/epoe.htm
Poe, Edgar Allen. Poe: Poems and Prose. (4th Edition). New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. 1995. Print.
“Poe’s Life: Who is Edgar Allen Poe?” poemuseum.org. 2010. Web. Retrieved Nov 28, 2011: http://www.poemuseum.org/life.php