Seminar Paper, 2000
14 Pages, Grade: 3 (C)
1.1. What is this Paper about?
1.2. About the Author
1.2.1. Early Life and Work
1.2.2. Editorial Career
2.1. About the Text
2.2.1. Subdivisions of the Poem
2.2.2. Development in the Text
2.3.1. What is the Poem about?
2.3.2. What does the Raven stand for?
2.4. Metrical and Acoustic Aspects
2.5.2. Stylistic Devices
4. List of Works Cited
The course during the semester was about American poetry of the nineteenth century but it was also concerned with the discussion of poetry in general.
At first I will give some information about the life and work of the author Edgar Allan Poe and the plot of “The Raven“ which is said to be his best known piece of work. Then under the headline “Analyzation“ I will analyze the poem by considering intrinsic points of view in order to take a close look at it and how it is arranged, as well as extrinsic points of view, in order to give some background information about the history of the text.
Finally I will summarize my results by answering several questions:
1. Did Poe’s life influence the story that is told in The Raven?
2. Why is this poem so famous?
3. Is The Raven a ‘good’ poem?
I will try to find the answers to these questions in agreement with authors and critics who wrote about this poem.
illustration not visible in this excerpt
Edgar Poe was born on January the nineteenth 1809 in Boston. His parents, David Poe Jr. and Elizabeth Arnold Hopkins, were touring actors; both died before he was 3 years old, and he was taken into the home of John Allan, a prosperous merchant in Richmond, Virginia, where he was baptized Edgar Allan Poe. His childhood was uneventful, although he studied for 5 years (1815-20) in England. In 1826 he entered the University of Virginia but stayed for only a year. He ran up large gambling debts that his stepfather refused to pay. Therefore he had to leave the college. He broke with Allan and went to Boston, where he published his first book of poems, Tamerlane and other Poems (1827). Because of not having any financial support and the book being unsuccessful, Poe enlisted in the army.
In 1829 he left in order to accept an appointment at West Point, as an enlisted man. At this time he had already published Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane, and Minor Poems. After leaving West Point he asked his stepfather for financial assistance but Allan refused. He then moved to Baltimore in 1833 and lived in the home of his aunt Maria Glemm, where he fell in love with his cousin Virginia. His stepfather died one year later.
In 1833, he won a $50 prize in a short story contest for “The Manuscript in the bottle“. Poe, his aunt, and Virginia moved to Richmond in 1835, and he became editor of the Southern Literary Messenger. In the same year he married Virginia, who was only 14 years old at this time.
Poe published fiction stories, among these was his most horrifying tale, Berenice, in the Messenger, but most of his contributions were serious, analytical, and critical reviews that earned him respect as a critic. In January 1837 the issue of the Messenger announced Poe's withdrawal as editor but also included the first installment of his long prose tale, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, five of his reviews, and two of his poems. Poe had success as a writer but he failed to satisfy his employer.
In the following years he changed his jobs and places to live. First he moved to New York City (1837), then to Philadelphia (1838-44), and again to New York (1844-49), where he became an editor of The Broadway Journal. By July 12, he was the sole editor and by October 24, the sole owner as well. Poe finally had full control of the magazine, but it was already laboring under serious debts.
In 1845 Poe's poem, The Raven was published in the New York Evening Mirror; The Raven and other Poems was published in book form in the same year. But The Broadway Journal soon had to cease publication because it was buried under with financial problems.
Two years later, after his wife had died of tuberculosis, Poe turned more and more to drinking. In 1848 he published Eureka. During a southern lecture tour, he undertook in 1849 to raise money and for his proposed magazine, Edgar Allan Poe died on octobre the seventh in Baltimore of delirium tremens.
A solitary figure sits alone in his chamber on a stormy night, tormented by the thoughts of his lost love, the beautiful Lenore. Suddenly, a menacing raven, a bird of ill-omen, flies through an open window and perches itself above the chamber door on the bust of Pallas. The protagonists asks himself aloud which could be the bird’s name and the bird replies with the famous phrase: "Nevermore!"
Then the protagonist begins to ask the raven questions about his life and his lost love, which are all answered with the same word, the only word the raven is able to speak. But the protagonist thinks of the raven as a prophet. Therefore the negative answers to all his questions destroy all hope for salvation.
According to J.R. Hammond The Raven “owed its origins to a review of Barnaby Rudge which he [Poe] composed for Graham’s Magazine (Februrary 1841). In the course of this review he commented sifnificantly on the symbolical importance of the raven in Dickens’s novel.“ Hammond gives some more interesting information: Poe brooded on the idea of a poem about a raven and its symbolical importance for some years. He finished it in the house in which he had stayed with his aunt and his wife in New York of which furniture a bust of Pallas belonged to.
In 1842, when he began to write the poem, his wife was already heavily ill. Poe feared perhaps for Virginia’s life and there is no doubt that this personal experience had a grave influence on the design of the poem.
It was published in 1845 published in the New York Evening Mirror and its success was instantaneous.
 Hammond, J. R. An Edgar Allan Poe Companion: A Guide to the Short Stories, Romances and Essays. Totowa: Barnes & Noble Books, 1981.
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