explanation of a quote

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what does "and his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming, and the lamp-light o're him streming throws his shadow on the floor;" mean????? what does this quote mean???????

-- Anonymous, December 10, 2001


sori for not being serious about my name. I just don't like to give it out. So anywayz, i am also doin' a report on EAP! ahhh help it's due in 2 dayz! ahhhhh

-- Anonymous, December 10, 2001


Although it is difficult to know what you mean by 'mean', I offer the following observations anyway. I don't claim any great originality for the insights, most of this has been discussed to death elsewhere.

Firstly, the quotation does not mean anything outside of its context. You have to imagine the raven perched on the bust of Pallas (aka Athena, Greek goddess of wisdom and the arts), this bust being above the entrance door to the narrator's chamber.

Then it is worth going back a few stanzas to find an earlier reference to the raven as "the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom's core". Eyes are a standard motif in Romantic writing, since they are commonly assumed to be the 'windows to the soul', incapable of lying, hypnotic, etc. What the bird 'discovers' in the narrator's "core" (in other words, what the raven's eyes make the narrator remember) is, of course, Lenore. Exactly why is not made clear to us, but it is worth remembering that lovers spend a great deal of time gazing into each other's eyes, and this connects eyes to love. 'Fiery' may suggest the passionate intensity of the lost affair.

Yet by the final stanza the raven's eyes are not fiery but dreamlike (even if it is the dream of a demon). It is hard to know how deep you should dig in this image: is it just an evocative poetic line or does it contain deeper meaning? If there is something more it may be that Poe is thinking of an 18th century debate about how we can know that the world is real. Perhaps, some philosophers speculated, it might be that we are just part of the dream of a demon and the world doesn't really exist. Whatever, the narrator probably feels that the distinction between reality and fantasy is blurred (he has been reading a "volume of forgotten lore").

I see this as a response to the death of Lenore. If the world is all real he has to deal with her death, if it is all fantasy he can pretend that it didn't really happen. This chimes with his desire for a drug (Nepenthe) which would erase all memories of her forever, so he can act as if she never existed.

So much for the eyes, now for the lamp-light. Here there is (as many people have noticed) a major problem. Since the bust of Pallas and the raven are on a shelf above the door, for the light to cast a shadow on the floor this light would have to be behind (and slightly above) the bust. This is all very well in an age of electric lighting, but it is inconceivable that a flame could be placed here. You can't put something burning behind a bust, not to mention a raven. The light would almost certainly be below the level of the top of a door which would make the shadow be cast on the ceiling, not the floor.

So has Poe screwed up or is something else going on here? There have been several attempts to answer this question but my best guess is that it doesn't really matter. Poe wanted the shadow on the floor and if this creates an inexplicably odd image then so much the better for the mood of the poem. It's probably best not to inquire too deeply as to where the lamp was placed, and focus our attention on why Poe was so concerned with having the shadow where it is.

The answer is in the lines which follow: "And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor / Shall be lifted -- nevermore!" I offer here just one possible reading of these lines, which depend upon the use of color. The bust of Pallas is white ("pallid"), the raven is black and the shadow is, of course, black as well. The linking of his soul to the blackness of the shadow rather than the whiteness of Athena (wisdom and the arts, remember) suggests that he will not find a way out of his melancholic state (a much better term than 'depression'!) by reason or by his abilities as a poet. [Important note: I am talking about the narrator, not Poe. Keep these two separate in all discussions of Poe's work.] Instead, he his doomed to spend eternity contemplating his loss by looking downwards onto the shadows rather than upwards towards knowledge and other higher things.

You might also want to think about the immateriality of shadows rather than the physical substance of the actual raven. You can't fight shadows, but a real raven could be dismissed (or even killed) to get rid of it.

Anyway, enough for now. But it's always interesting to see how much there is to discuss about even a short quotation from great poetry.

Hope this helps.

-- Anonymous, December 11, 2001

his _ refers to the raven

eyes_ eyes are symbolic of the soul.

seeming_ seeming is relativeto word like or alike

demon_ demons are associated with evil

Dreaming_ when your dreaming your unconscious

so ... since we can assume the narrator knows enough to deduct that the word nevermore means nothing because ravens cannot really speak we can assume nevermore (related to ever more and nothing more spoken by the narrator in previous stanzas) is actually answers from the unconscious or subconsciousness of the narrator himself. put simply, the raven is the narrators creation. whether he is actually there or not means nothing, its what we see the narrator associate the raven with that is important. the raven here is symbolizing evil, only because it will not give the answers the narrator wants to hear.

-- Anonymous, November 03, 2004

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