So, you think you know what this poem is all about – you’ve seen the Simpson’s version (which is actually pretty amazing and faithful to the original text), you’ve coveted the Poe socks that seem to be doing the rounds of every book subscription box going – but have you actually sat down and read The Raven? I hadn’t, and if you haven’t either then you’re in for a treat.
As you probably know, The Raven is Poe’s most famous poem about a man haunted by the loss of Lenore. One night, he’s visited by a raven, whose only utterance is the phrase “nevermore”. The scene is a classic horror movie scenario, a cold and wet night with a mysterious tapping from something outside wanting to come in. Considering how few words are used, the overall tone is brilliantly conveyed to create a darkly gothic, slightly surreal poem about loss, grief and despair.
As it’s pretty short, a lot is left up to the imagination. Who is Lenore? Is the raven a real creature? Is there any hope for the main protagonist? Is it all a dream? I think it’s amazing how Poe managed to provide just enough information to allow readers to draw their own conclusions, but not so much that it’s obvious what has happened and not so little that it’s confusing.
Personally, assumed that Lenore is a dead wife or girlfriend but she could easily be a female friend or relative (or even just an allegorical reference to the man’s sanity as it slips away), and Poe could easily have been referring to the death of a relationship, or the love between the two characters.
It seemed to me that the raven represented a voice of reason, or perhaps an internal dialogue, who consistently responded to the man’s proclamations of grief by saying “nevermore” meaning “nope, never coming back, not gonna happen”. I’m not sure whether the man had gone mad with grief and was seeing the raven as a vision of his own despair or whether he was dreaming but in either case it seemed like there was absolutely no hope for him. It’s this sense of despair that mixes so well with the creepy atmosphere to give the poem real emotional punch.
I read the illustrated version of the text (for free, via Amazon) and the beautiful pictures really added to the overall experience of reading such an atmospheric poem. With Halloween just around the corner, it’s a great text to read at this time of year – I’d thoroughly recommend it.
Overall rating: 4/5
Beautifully written, a gothic masterpiece.
Please note that I read this book as part of the Popsugar Reading Challenge 2017 #30 Read a book with pictures.