Over the Door

The Raven, by Edgar Allan Poe, is a wonderfully dark and spooky tale.

In the first two stanzas a theme develops pairing some knocking sound with the memory of the narrator’s dead love, Lenore. He had tried to forget his sorrow in the reading of lore, but is unable to move on, perhaps in part due to the knocking that wakes him. Now, this wanting to forget seems to be connected to sleep, or rest, as later he near dreams of smelling his lost love’s perfume. This takes him out of the revelries he had fallen into and starts him again to questioning the strange bird.

But, before he meets the bird he first wakes to this tapping, and is overcome with dread. He has to repeat to himself a few times that it is only a visitor at his door, and then he is able to open the portal. Eerily, no one is there. What does the narrator do but call to his love, and from the darkness he hears an echo, “Lenore!”

Returning to his chamber, he finds the knocking has grown louder. Here is something interesting, the echo of the word Lenore he asserts to being just an echo. And now, finding the tapping is coming from the window, he asserts it is only the wind. But it is not the wind, and I doubt it was just an echo.

Opening the window he lets in a raven, which he describes as having a noble quality, its movements likened to a lord or lady. Over the same door from which he heard the echo the bird perches upon a bust of the war titan Pallas.

He smiles at the raven and its sternness, and quires that bird regarding its name. And the raven replies with that oft quoted line, “Nevermore.”

It goes downhill for the narrator after that. He says to himself, the bird will leave me as my Hopes, capitalized h, left me. But the raven tells him, nevermore. And that, at least, the narrator seems to affirm at the end of the poem.

My own uneducated opinion is that the themes here represent a loss of faith. The name Lenore, meaning light, is an echo from the darkness he fears facing, a light at the end of a dark hallway. Questions of afterlife are being asked. A symbol of death, a bird of carrion, paired with an image of war, stands over this door he must cross.

He has lost his faith, and the only thing that seems stable and real are death and suffering. He must pass under them though, to where an echo of light resides.

Christopher Lee’s reading: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BefliMlEzZ8


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