The Raven

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The Raven Character Analysis

The Raven is a bird that enters the narrator’s house, while the narrator is grieving over his lost love in the middle of the night, and lands upon the narrator’s bust of Pallas. To everything the narrator says, the Raven responds with just one word: “Nevermore.” The bird acts in no other way, neither attacking the narrator nor seeming to wish him harm, but the narrator views it as at best supernatural and at worst demonic. Further, the narrator interprets the Raven's repeated “Nevermore” as a refusal of all his desires to be reunited with Lenore. At the end of the poem, the narrator observes that the Raven is still perched atop the bust of Pallas and will likely remain there forever, and that he will spend the rest of his life living under its evil influence. Whether the Raven is a supernatural being or a product of the narrator’s imagination is unclear, and in this way the poem creates a connection, typical of Gothic literature, between the subconscious and the supernatural.

The Raven Quotes in The Raven

The The Raven quotes below are all either spoken by The Raven or refer to The Raven. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Death and the Afterlife Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Signet Classics edition of The Raven published in 2008.
The Raven Quotes

Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night’s Plutonian shore!

Related Characters: The narrator (speaker), The Raven
Related Symbols: “Night’s Plutonian shore”
Page Number: 94
Explanation and Analysis:

The narrator is amused upon first encountering the Raven, and speaks to it candidly before he realizes it has the ability to respond. He treats it like a distinguished guest, and asks it for its name on the “Night’s Plutonian shore” — Plutonian refers to Pluto, the Roman god of the underworld—jokingly accusing the bird of having emerged from hell or the world of the dead. Amusement fuels this question, but the narrator’s subsequent interactions with the Raven stem from anxiety and desperation. By the close of the poem, the narrator shouts at the bird to return to the “Night’s Plutonian shore,” having realized that his nightmarish jest has actually come to pass.

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“Doubtless,” said I, “what it utters is its only stock and store”…

Related Characters: The narrator (speaker), The Raven
Related Symbols: The Raven
Page Number: 95
Explanation and Analysis:

While interacting with the Raven for the first time, the narrator does a fair bit of muttering to himself as though the bird cannot hear. When, to his surprise, he hears the bird replying “Nevermore” to his side comments, he tries to interpret the anomaly with reason. Here, he presumes that “Nevermore” is something the bird might have picked up from an especially pessimistic former master, and not, as he comes to assume later, a fatalistic pronouncement signaling the end of his hopes and dreams to be reunited with his dearest Lenore. This exchange is the last of the narrator’s efforts to exercise reason in his dealings with the bird; in all subsequent interactions, he perceives the bird’s comments as legitimate responses to his frantic questions, rather than stray, accidental utterances picked up from previous travels.

Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy…

Related Characters: The narrator (speaker), The Raven
Related Symbols: The Raven
Page Number: 96
Explanation and Analysis:

The narrator sits down in a velvet chair and resolves to study the bird and explain to himself its mysterious ability to speak, and the meaning of its repeated word. The etymology of “fancy” is linked to the word “fantasy,” and means both “a mental image” and “to believe without being absolutely sure or certain,” to fantasize. Poe’s use of “fancy” helps to blur the line between what is reality and what is the product of the narrator’s imagination, implying that what the narrator is seeing in the Raven might be entirely a result of his subconscious playing tricks on him while he grieves for Lenore.

And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door…

Related Characters: The narrator (speaker), The Raven (speaker)
Related Symbols: Pallas, The Raven
Page Number: 98
Explanation and Analysis:

The narrator has screamed at the bird to leave, but to no avail: the Raven sits and sits upon the bust of Pallas, continuing to haunt the narrator. In lingering on the bust, the Raven indicates the triumph of dark supernatural forces over those of cool, calm, and collected rationality. As the poem is told as a recollection, the last scene continues until the present day, meaning that the Raven “still is sitting” then, now, and potentially forever. Like the narrator’s memories of Lenore, the Raven refuses to leave the plagued narrator’s mind, causing him misery until the bitter end.

And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted—nevermore!

Related Characters: The narrator (speaker), The Raven
Related Symbols: The Raven
Page Number: 98
Explanation and Analysis:

With the Raven and thoughts of Lenore looming over him for time immemorial, the narrator imagines that his soul will never be lifted, that he will never be cheerful, again. The narrator describes his soul as emerging from the shadow of the bird, as though the two entities had been made one by his inability to escape from the bird’s nefarious influence. Tightening the relationship between man and bird is the fact that “Nevermore,” the Raven’s refrain, has now made its way into the narrator’s vocabulary. Having internalized the Raven’s refusal of all his hopes, the narrator now inflicts the word on himself, closing the poem on an appropriately dark and pessimistic note.

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The Raven Character Timeline in The Raven

The timeline below shows where the character The Raven appears in The Raven. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The Raven
Memory and Loss Theme Icon
The Supernatural and the Subconscious Theme Icon
Rationality and Irrationality Theme Icon
Ancient Influences Theme Icon
Suddenly, the narrator hears a knocking at his window, and he opens it. The Raven flies in, perching atop a bust of Pallas above the door. At first, the narrator... (full context)
Death and the Afterlife Theme Icon
Memory and Loss Theme Icon
The Supernatural and the Subconscious Theme Icon
Rationality and Irrationality Theme Icon
Ancient Influences Theme Icon
...might be able to “quaff this kind nepenthe” — to forget about her entirely. The Raven, however, answers “Nevermore.” (full context)
Death and the Afterlife Theme Icon
Memory and Loss Theme Icon
The Supernatural and the Subconscious Theme Icon
Rationality and Irrationality Theme Icon
Ancient Influences Theme Icon
Growing more anxious, the narrator asks the Raven if there is “balm in Gilead” —if heaven will give him some hope of seeing... (full context)