The Raven

Death and the Afterlife Theme Analysis

Themes and Colors
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
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Raven, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Death and the Afterlife Theme Icon

As with many other of Poe’s works, “The Raven” explores death. More specifically, this poem explores the effects of death on the living, such as grief, mourning, and memories of the deceased, as well as a question that so often torments those who have lost loved ones to death: whether there is an afterlife in which they will be reunited with the dead.

At the beginning of the poem, the narrator is mourning alone in a dark, cheerless room. He portrays himself as trying to find “surcease of sorrow” by reading his books. One might read this as an effort to distract himself and thereby escape the pain of the death of a loved one. One might also interpret the narrator’s reading of books of “forgotten lore” to indicate that he is looking for arcane knowledge about how to reverse death. In either case, his reaction to the death of a loved one is rather typical: to try to escape the pain of it, or to attempt to deny death.

Before the Raven’s arrival, the narrator hears a knocking at the door of his room, and after finding no one there calls “Lenore?” into the darkness, as if sensing or hoping she has returned to him. Following the Raven’s arrival, he eventually asks the bird if there is “balm in Gilead,” implying a hope that he might see Lenore once more in heaven. In either case, the narrator’s desperate desire to be reunited with Lenore in some way is obvious.

In “Lenore,” another of Poe’s poems featuring a deceased woman named Lenore, the narrator, confronted with the loss of his wife, reassures himself with the prospect that he will see her again in heaven. In “The Raven,” however, the narrator ultimately takes a gloomier view. After the Raven arrives, cutting short the narrator’s sense that Lenore might be visiting as a ghost and answering his hopeful questions about Gilead with only the repeated “Nevermore,” the narrator resigns himself to believing that he will never encounter Lenore again. Poe leaves unclear whether the Raven is telling the narrator the truth or giving voice to the narrator’s own anxieties about having lost Lenore for good. Either way, the poem concludes on the pessimistic note that nothing can exist beyond death, that there is no “balm in Gilead.”

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Death and the Afterlife ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Death and the Afterlife appears in each chapter of The Raven. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Death and the Afterlife Quotes in The Raven

Below you will find the important quotes in The Raven related to the theme of Death and the Afterlife.
The Raven Quotes

Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore…

Related Characters: The narrator (speaker), Lenore
Page Number: 92
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, “Lenore?”
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, “Lenore!”

Related Characters: The narrator (speaker), Lenore
Page Number: 93
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor…

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

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

“Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore!”

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

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

“Is there—is there balm in Gilead?”

Page Number: 97
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris