Guilt and regret are two emotions that have transcended time and have constantly been used as literary topics for countless years and countless works. Literature captures the essence of humanity and expresses it in ways that most cannot do, therefore we look to literature as a way to relate and guide us through whatever it is we are trying to deal with, whether it be positive or negative. In this essay I will be exploring Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven,” to demonstrate the expression of guilt and regret in the form of poetry using different poetic devices to do so. I will be analyzing the idea that the narrator of the poem is not just expressing sorrow over the loss of his “Lenore,” but also guilt stemming from his belief that he could have done more to save her, or in fact maybe even caused the death of his beloved Lenore.
Poe does a good job of separating the poem into two categories or sections, so to speak. One being the hopeful idea that he can get Lenore back or at least see her ghost and possibly reconcile with her so that he can live on happily. The other being the dark and dramatic tone of the poem that takes
overwhelming precedence after the first few stanzas. And the way Poe does that, obviously not having the use of images to aid him, anytime he is talking about Lenore or something positive, he uses positive imagery such as “the white bust of Pallas” to describe his beloved Lenore. What makes this poem more than just a horror story is the way that Poe uses his words and poetic skills to thrust the reader into the narrator’s mind and into his psyche so that you know not only his feelings, but his thoughts too. It is a deep poem on many levels and through the rest of this thesis I will prove that the narrator is responsible in some capacity for the death of Lenore.
The poem is written in a melancholic tone from the very beginning when Poe describes the night that he is visited by the raven as a midnight dreary, also stating that it is during “the bleak December.” (Line 7) He immediately starts off setting the tone of the poem and the setting of the poem as an unhappy and sorrowful atmosphere so the reader gets the feeling of sadness from the narrator from the first line. From that line about December along with the line referring to “dying embers” the reader is thrust into a scene of depression and sadness. December is a month where all things being to decay and die, from the leaves, to the grass along with animals not dying, but fleeing for warmer weather. The dying embers is just another way that Poe creates the scene for the reader so that it is as if he is painting an image of what is going on with the narrator. It does not take long for Poe to give the reader a sense of uneasiness. It is clear that also from the first stanza that the narrator is on edge, while he reads “forgotten lore” (line 2). The narrator is most likely partaking in some form of black magic to bring back his lost love, Lenore. Poe uses the literary devices, internal rhyme and alliteration to give the first and other stanzas a musical or rhythmic sound that aids the overall tone of sadness for the poem. By giving the poem a structured rhythmic tone, it truly aids the sense of the narrator’s sadness and fear of the situation he is in. Also, the dark musical theme of the first stanza serves as proof that the narrator of the poem is truly performing some type of black magic, because if you look back at mankind’s recollection of black magic, they are almost performed using some type of musical ritual where people are sing-songy in the way that they are carrying out the black magic.
The narrator goes on in the next stanza to talk about how he, “sought to borrow from my books surcease of sorrow – sorrow for the lost Lenore.” This is the first time in the poem that he mentions what he is so sad about, which is the loss of his beloved, Lenore. Now the narrator is putting the pieces...