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It's late at night, and late in the year (after midnight on a December evening, to be precise). A man is sitting in his room, half reading, half falling asleep, and trying to forget his lost love, 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.