The Raven by Edgar Allan
surcease – an end
obeisance – a bow or other gesture of respect
mien – aspect
Plutonian – of or relating to the underworld; hellish
countenance – face; facial expression discourse – conversation
aptly – appropriately
Seraphim – angels
respite – relief
nepenthe – something that eases pain or causes one to forget a painful situation quaff – drink
Questions and Answers
1. Read the poem’s first line. What is the literary term for a rhyme such as the rhyming of “dreary” (in the middle of the line) with “weary” (at the line’s end)?
The literary term is internal rhyme.
2. Who is Lenore?
Lenore is a lost love of the speaker’s – lost because of death.
3. Why do you think Poe chose to use a raven in this poem as opposed to, for example, a parrot or sparrow?
Answers may vary. Example: A raven may be seen as an ill omen since it has darker connotations the other birds do.
4. What, according to the second stanza, is the speaker trying to accomplish by reading “forgotten lore”?
The speaker is trying to find some relief from his mourning to distract himself and attain “surcease of sorrow.”
5. When he peers into the darkness and sees nothing, who does the speaker initially imagine may be trying to contact him?
The speaker initially imagines that Lenore may be trying to contact him.
6. What does the narrator mean when, in the eleventh stanza, he says of the raven, “Doubtless…what it utters is its only stock and store,/Caught from some unhappy master”?
The speaker is trying to convince himself that the raven most likely learned only one word–”nevermore”– from its master and is not replying intelligently to the narrator’s queries, but rather automatically. However, the word “nevermore,” as it is used in other stanzas, also signifies the end of Lenore’s life and the fact that the narrator will never see her again. The bird’s automatic response mocks his feelings.
7. Who is the narrator addressing when he cries “Wretch” in the fourteenth stanza?
The narrator is addressing himself.
8. Describe the narrator’s state at the end of the poem.
Answers may vary. Example: The narrator has been driven somewhat mad by grief, torturing himself by shaking off his earlier idea that the raven’s “nevermore”s were mere parrotings of a word the bird had been taught in favor of the idea that the raven really does know that the speaker will never be reunited with Lenore.