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The Raven

The Raven

by Edgar Allan Poe

Madness Theme

The speaker of "The Raven" sounds like he's had a rough life, and most people would probably be a little shaken up to find themselves talking to a bird. Still, we think it's entirely possible that he's insane, or at least pretty far down that road. He talks a lot about wild dreams, imaginary perfume, his burning soul, etc. Of course, the possibility that he's headed around the bend raises some other questions. Is this bird really talking? Is there a bird at all? Is this just a kind of fever-dream? We'll hold off on those questions for now, but keep them in mind.

Questions About Madness

  1. Do you think the speaker is insane? We know we've suggested this possibility, but do you see it in the poem? Where? Is there another explanation for his behavior?
  2. Is there a growing sense of insanity as this poem builds to its climax? What might give you that idea?
  3. Does this poem make you feel a little crazy?
  4. Is it possible that the speaker is making up or imagining some of the weird events in this poem?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Although it describes an interaction with a talking raven, this poem is about the descent into insanity. It carefully tracks the steps from a state of nervousness to total psychological breakdown.

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