top of page

A Psychoanalytic Approach to Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven”

[The Portrait of Edgar Allan Poe]. (n.d.).

The gothic themes in Poe’s short stories, as in the instances of The Masque of the Red Death (1845) and The Fall of the House of Usher (1839), and in his poetry, as in his poems “The Haunted Palace” (1839) and “The Raven” (1845), were inspired by Gothic Fiction (1760s-1820s), which most of its thematic content deals with, “wild and desolate landscapes, dark forests, ruined abbeys, feudal halls and medieval castles with dungeons, secret passages, winding stairways, oubliettes, sliding panels, and torture chambers; monstrous apparitions and curses; a stupefying atmosphere of doom and gloom; heroes and heroines in the direst of imaginable straits, wicked tyrants, malevolent witches, demonic powers of unspeakably hideous aspect, and a proper complement of spooky effects and clanking spectres.” (Dictionary of Literary Terms & Literary Theory, 1999). The Dark Romantic side in the genius of Poe’s tales of the macabre and the grotesque will be the concern of this article, further examined and explored by adopting a thematic and psychoanalytic approach to analyze his famous poem “The Raven” (1845).

Doré, G. (n.d.). [An illustration of Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “The Raven”].

Published on January 29th, 1845, Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “The Raven” announces an atmosphere of sorrow from the beginning of the first two stanzas, expressed by the narrator through the use of “a midnight dreary” and “the bleak of December” as the narrator is sitting alone, consumed by “a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore” (Poe's "The Raven"). Seemingly, the narrator recalls some recent events that have tormented him, leaving him preoccupied or thoughtful. Words such as “dying ember” and “ghost upon the floor” are symbolic of the theme of death as the narrator, sitting by the fireplace, watching the fire being consumed and unconsciously reflecting his fear of or rather obsession with death, describes Dr. Kelly (2019).

Not only does the narrator express his concern with the matter of death, but he is also affected by the loss of a woman he remembers and apparently with whom he is still in love, given her attributes of “the rare and radiant maiden”. Dr. Kelly (2019) further explains the mechanisms of loss through a Freudian approach, whereby, “unlike mourning, melancholia concerns an “unknown loss” in that the sufferer “knows whom he has lost but not what he has lost in him.” (pp.68). In other words, the narrator is emotionally aware of the loss of his beloved Lenore, but rather unconsciously still in search of the lost object that he had lost in himself, which is the source of his melancholic state of being, overwhelming him with emotional pain to what Dr. Kelly (2019) qualifies as “creeping madness” (pp. 67). T