Hello, darling readers, and Happy Halloween to all. It's Belle here again to bring you another bookish post. Since it is Halloween, I thought it would be fitting to write a post about Edgar Allen Poe. More specifically sharing my thoughts on Edgar Allen Poe’s famous poem The Raven. In high school, I was briefly taught the poem but something never sat well with me. My English teacher taught my classmates and me that the raven mentioned within the poem was real. Now, years later, I have reread the poem and after a two and half hour phone call with Arya discussing this topic; we have come up with solutions that I find to make more sense and wanted to share my thoughts as the overall conclusion is that the raven is not real.
For those of you who have not read The Raven, I will give you a very quick and basic synopsis of this poem. Essentially, this poem follows a narrator who says that he was tired but soon hears a tapping on the door to his room. He opens the door to not find anyone there but then hears the tapping again on his window. When he goes to check, he finds a raven there who then enters his room and starts saying “Nevermore” repeatedly. The narrator talks about his lost love Lenore and you can tell the narrator is very upset by this loss. The text is not clear as to if she left him, or if she is dead. At the end of the poem, the narrator says that the raven is still in his room and is still talking to him.
Before I get into my theories though, I do want to point out that a lot of our ideas do stem from the thought that the narrator has some sort of mental illness. Arya and I are not professional psychologists, so if it seems that we do not understand all the nuances of some mental illnesses, it is because of this fact. We did look up some symptoms and did further research to see if our ideas would track, however, we did not speak to any professional psychologists. If there is something that you feel we have misrepresented please kindly let us know because we would like to learn and become better educated.
My original theory was that the narrator dreamed up the raven. The poem starts with the narrator mentioning that it is midnight and how he is weak and weary. Before the raven even appears, it is mentioned that the narrator was almost asleep. However, who is to say that the narrator was not already asleep. The tapping he heard may have just been the start of his dream meaning everything after would also have to be a dream. The only thing that Arya and I don’t like about dream theory is that the narrator mentions that the bird is still there at the end of the poem.
The next theory that Arya and I have come up with is that the narrator faced a psychotic break due to depression. Within the poem, the narrator mentions his lost love Lenore time and time again. We concluded that the raven could very well have been induced by a mental break from the depression the narrator faced in losing his love. One thing to note though is that even if the narrator does not actually have depression, any human who is undergoing great times of stress (which it seemed the narrator was) could have a break from reality. This could be another reason that a raven was constantly seen by the narrator. Along with the same idea, we also thought the narrator could have psychotic depression. Of course, it would be brought on by the narrator’s lost love but hallucinations both visual and auditory are symptoms that explain the tapping heard and the seeing of the talking raven. However, it is important to note that the tapping could have been real as a tree may have been hitting a window of the building due to wind. Considering the fact that Poe’s life was so fraught with tragedy, Arya and I like these two ideas the best. It would make sense especially if the narrator had psychotic depression and was hallucinating this raven the whole time.
Schizophrenia may also be a cause for the raven. For those of you who don’t know, schizophrenia is defined as a long-term mental disorder where there is a break between thought, emotion, and behavior. This causes faulty perceptions of reality, inappropriate actions and feelings, and can cause delusions as well as a withdrawal from reality. If the narrator has a schizophrenic episode brought on by the loss of his love and induced by real tapping, it would make sense that he could see a raven as a hallucination. If the narrator is a paranoid schizophrenic, it would also make sense as to why the narrator is so unnerved by the bird.
We also concluded that the narrator may suffer from sleep paralysis. This was another one of my original theories because the thought of the raven being something like a sleep paralysis demon would make sense in the context of the poem. This would be especially due to the fact that this bird seems to strike a lot of unease in the narrator.
Now some people have said that it could be possible that the reader is actually dead and that the sight of this raven is essentially this narrator’s personal purgatory. However, I don’t think that quite fits up. I will concede it could be possible, however, if the narrator was dead I feel like he would try to conjure up the memory of Lenore. Since she is still lost to him, I still think that he is alive.
In the end, it could be any of these ideas or a combination of them. Poe’s hauntingly beautiful poem The Raven is still loved today and is still causing speculation of readers everywhere. These are just my thoughts on whether or not the raven was real. I hope you have a wonderfully spooky Halloween darling readers. Tune in next Sunday for Arya’s next post.