The Raven

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The Raven Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Edgar Allan Poe

Poe was orphaned at a young age and grew up fostered by the wealthy Allan family in Virginia. After dropping out of university and the army, he became one of the first writers of the time to make a living from publishing his stories and criticism. Possibly his best-known work, “The Raven,” published in 1845, won him considerable fame and success. But he had much financial and mental difficulty throughout his life, particularly after the death of his wife Virginia. Poe’s death in 1849 was a much debated tragedy – alcohol, suicide, tuberculosis 3and many other things have been attributed as causes.
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Historical Context of The Raven

Edgar Allen Poe wrote “The Raven” while his wife, Virginia, was ill with tuberculosis, a disease that had already robbed him of three family members.Critics consider the character of Lenore, presumably the narrator’s lost beloved, to be a representation of Virginia. Virginia’s premature death is also thought to have inspired other works by Poe, including “Annabel Lee” and a poem actually called “Lenore,” in which, as in “The Raven,” a man copes with the death of a young woman, though “Lenore” ultimately ends on a note of optimism in contrast to the madness and despair of “The Raven.”

Other Books Related to The Raven

“The Raven” is an example of Gothic literature. Originating in 18th century England, the Gothic typically includes elements of the supernatural, horror, doomed romance and melodrama. Like “The Raven,” Gothic works like Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë and Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë find their characters in dreary isolation, struggling with intense passions while surrounded by spooky, otherworldly influences that are often connected both with the supernatural and the subconsciousness of the characters.
Key Facts about The Raven
  • Full Title:The Raven
  • When Written:January 29th, 1845
  • Where Written:Unknown
  • When Published:January 29th, 1845 in the New York Evening Mirror
  • Literary Period:Romantic, Early Victorians
  • Genre:Narrative poem
  • Setting:The narrator’s home on a midnight in December
  • Climax:As the narrator tells us at the conclusion of the poem, the Raven remains in his home, possibly forever.
  • Antagonist:The Raven
  • Point of View:The poem is told from the point of view of the narrator.

Extra Credit for The Raven

Archrival. Poe and literary critic Rufus Griswold were often in literary conflict. Griswold had the last word, writing an obituary of Poe that portrayed the author as an insane alcoholic.

Harsh critic. Poe had a reputation for condemning other writers in his reviews — notably, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, whom Poe accused of being a plagiarist.