What Is the Main Theme of “The Raven?”

Edgar Allen Poe’s poem “The Raven” is driven by a theme of beauty, which Poe considered to be epitomized by sadness. The poem’s sadness, then, derives from the story as it tells of a lost love, and a raven who brings back memories of this beloved woman. The narrator of the poem is lonely as a result of his loss, and finds company in a raven he fears will be gone by morning.

The inherent sadness of the poem is established from the beginning, when the narrator reads in order to get his mind off of Lenore. The overall droll and depressed mood is further established in descriptive, scene-setting language such as “midnight dreary” and “bleak December.”

When the raven arrives at the narrator’s door, his sadness and longing for Lenore lead him to whisper her name. The raven’s shadow is also described as overcoming the narrator and instilling sadness. The raven appears to know no word other than “Nevermore,” delivering a hopeless and uninspiring message. Symbols of night and death also pervade the poem to lend it an even gloomier and more devastating tone.

Due to the nature of poetry, it is possible to have varying interpretations of the poem, its theme, and the story it is telling.