'The Raven' Questions for Study and Discussion

Famous American Poetry - Edgar Allan Poe

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A statue of Edgar Allen Poe with a raven near Boston Common. Paul Marotta / Getty Images

Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven" is the most famous of Poe's poems, notable for its melodic and dramatic qualities. The meter of the poem is mostly trochaic octameter, with eight stressed-unstressed two-syllable feet per lines. Combined with an end rhyme scheme and the frequent use of internal rhyme, the the refrain of "nothing more" and "nevermore" give the poem a musical lilt when read aloud. Poe also emphasizes the "O" sound in words such as "Lenore" and "nevermore" to underline the melancholy and lonely sound of the poem and to establish the overall atmosphere.

Story Summary

"The Raven" follows an unnamed narrator on a dreary night in December who sits reading "forgotten lore" by a dying fire  as a way to forget the death of his beloved Lenore.

Suddenly, he hears someone (or something) knocking at the door. 

He calls out, apologizing to the "visitor" he imagines must be outside. Then he opens the door and finds…nothing. This freaks him out a little, and he reassures himself that it is just the wind against the window. So he goes and opens the window, and in flies (you guessed it) a raven.

The Raven settles in on a statue above the door, and for some reason, our speaker's first instinct is to talk to it. He asks for its name, just like you usually do with strange birds that fly into your house, right? Amazingly enough, though, the Raven answers back, with a single word: "Nevermore." 

Understandably surprised, the man asks more questions. The bird's vocabulary turns out to be pretty limited, though; all it says is "Nevermore." Our narrator catches on to this rather slowly and asks more and more questions, which get more painful and personal. The Raven, though, doesn't change his story, and the poor speaker starts to lose his sanity.

Study Guide Questions for "The Raven"

"The Raven" is one of Edgar Allan Poe's most memorable works. Here are a few questions for study and discussion.

  • What is important about the title of the poem, "The Raven"? Why does he use the title?
  • What are the conflicts in "The Raven"? What types of conflict (physical, moral, intellectual, or emotional) do you read?
  • How does Edgar Allan Poe reveal character in "The Raven"?
  • What are some themes? Symbols? How do they relate to the overall flow or meaning of the poem?
  • Does the poem end the way you expected? How? Why?
  • What is the central/primary purpose of the poem? Is the purpose important or meaningful?
  • How does the work relate to Poe's other works of supernatural and horror literature? Would you read it at Halloween?
  • How essential is the setting? Could the poem have taken place in another place or time? Do you get enough of a sense of where and when the poem takes place?
  • What is the significance of the raven in mythology and literature?
  • How is madness or insanity explored in the poem?
  • Would you recommend this poem to a friend?