What influenced the writting of his poem "The Raven"?

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I have to write an essay about Edgar Allan Poe's influences of the poem "THE RAVEN", and "THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH". Do you have any information on what people or person influenced him.(Hopefully about his wife)

-- Anonymous, May 02, 2000



There have been thousands that felt that The Raven, clearly Poes most popular and best known work, was inspired by his beloved Virginia. It has been a subject of disagreement for many years including some Poe scholars. It seems that every word in every line has been dissected, parsed and analyzed to reach some final conclusion on the issue but still the answer seems to remain, at best, debatable.

Personally, I am quite comfortable with the view that it was inspired by his wife, Virginia. However, I would qualify that by adding that I do not think Lenore was necessarily representative of Virginia nor do I think it important to the effect desired. It is my view that the inspiration that Virginia brought to this poem had more to do with the mutual dependence, devotion and the deep and profound love shared between Edgar and Virginia. What I mean to say is that the poem should not be seen as relating to a beautiful woman but more as the loss of a beautiful woman. It is the story of a love so deep, so profound and so enduring that the narrator, the survivor of this relationship, has reached a state of utter despair and despondency from which he fears he will never recover. He repeatedly tortures himself throughout the story by pointlessly appealing to the raven for release from his sorrow and anguish while he knows, intellectually, this ungainly fowl has only a single response to offer.

As for the narrator and Lenore being married, there is no indication in any stanza or line that would lend any credence to the notion that the narrator and Lenore had ever wed. The single argument to the contrary I have read was that in the lines.,

"On the cushions velvet lining that the lamp-light gloated oer But whose velvet-violet lining with the lamp-light gloating oer She shall press, ah, nevermore!"

.. is seen as an indication that Lenore will never again iron the velvet lining and, therefore, must have been his wife fulfilling her domestic responsibilities!! If this werent so laughable it must, at best, be seen as a 20th century chauvinist explanation for these lines. Cant you hear Edgar snickering even now?

It is thought that The Raven was written and revised throughout the latter part of 1844 and into early 1845. It was first published in the Evening Mirror and the American Review in January and February, 1845, respectively. By this time, Poe was well aware of the seriousness of Virginias illness (tuberculosis) and had agonized over her declining health since as early as 1842 when she began coughing blood. Surely, he must have suspected that her condition was terminal and this only added to his anguish and despair. At a time when he was virtually penniless, he would remain by her side and would often refuse to leave her alone and did all he could to see to her comfort.

In this, Poe was much like the narrator in The Raven in that, intellectually, he was fully aware of his wifes chances for survival but he simply refused to conceive of the loss of his precious Sissy. Edgar would often refuse to discuss or even listen to talk of her passing and was said to go wild over the mere mention of it by those in his presence. Regardless, of his refusal to accept reality, Edgar was constantly exposed to the dreadfulness of consumption as it was known.

Evidence of this shows in two of his short stories of this period, The Oval Portrait and The Masque of the Red Death. The story The Oval Portrait is about young girl that met, fell in love and wed an artist who had already found love in his art. As for herself,  she a maiden of rarest beauty, and not more lovely than full of glee; all light and smiles, and frolicsome as the young fawn; loving and cherishing all things; hating only the Art which was her rival; dreading only the pallet and brushes and other untoward instruments which deprived her of the countenance of her lover. Wishing to capture her unsurpassed beauty in portrait, he asks her to pose for him and dutifully she complies. Hour upon hour she sat, day after day rolled endlessly on and she obediently submitted until the weeks turned into months. As the painting began to coalesce into a life-like image, the artist became so riveted by his art, he refused to see that each brush of the painting and each color added was gained at the expense of his beautiful wifes health. As she became weaker, the light in her eyes diminished, her smile began to fade, her happiness spilled from her heart and still he refused to see the danger. As the final hour approached, as he applied the final tint with the last stroke of the brush, he marveled at his beautiful life- like creation and as he turned to share his achievement with his beautiful wife he found.. She was dead!

In The Masque of the Red Death, we can see some evidence of the hopelessness that Poe and many people of the time must have felt when it became obvious their loved ones would not survive the prevailing epidemic. Tuberculosis was not at all uncommon and while some were known to have survived, many suffered years from fevers, pain, weakness and bleeding in the lungs. There were other epidemics in Richmond, Philadephia and New York as well.

The theme of this story is the inevitability of death, that ultimately, death holds, illimitable dominion over all. We read that in spite of Prince Prosperos efforts to wall out the Red Death and escape the plague that is destroying his realm, he and his one thousand chosen revelers will not survive. It also speaks to past plagues when the privileged or wealthy could afford to remove themselves from the threat while those less fortunate would be doomed to suffer the horrors of the pestilence. It is one of Poes few stories where he acknowledges that there are no impediments man can place before death, it is inexorable and inescapable, and that time is the ally of our ultimate demise. My apologies for the length of this but I hope it helps. Best of luck and.

Best regards,

-- Anonymous, May 05, 2000

It was inspired by his wife Virginia and how he felt about her dying.

-- Anonymous, May 09, 2000

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