Explicating Poe’s Raven From a Psycho-Linguistic Perspective

Abdel-Rahman Abu-Melhim


This article aims at explicating Poe’s Raven using a psycho-linguistic perspective. This study is a serious attempt to delve into the psyche of Poe as an extremely important 19th century American poet, who may rightfully be considered as “America’s Shakespeare”. The critical analysis of this poem relies primarily on an approach that combines psychology and linguistics in the explication process. It takes in consideration the psychological and emotional state of Poe as well as the linguistic style employed in the poem. The study shows how the reader’s reception and response to the poem could easily change after considering the psycho-linguistic factors present in the poem. Specifically, the Raven appears to symbolize loneliness, sadness, and the feeling of going insane coupled with a sense of uncertainty even about one’s own self. This is clearly illustrated by the ability to hear sounds and experience smells without being able to deal with one’s own thoughts, which inevitably amounts to nothing less than self-torture. Poe’s own personal state of mind and psychological conditions seem to have helped him in composing this poem. Upon first reading of the poem, the reader may initially feel a sense of fear. However, the reader could upon subsequent readings arrive at a better understanding of the semantic connotations of the poem. A close and careful psycho-linguistic explication of The Raven helps the reader explore the deep and figurative layers of meaning contained within the lines of verse. The more we understand Poe’s psyche; the better interpretation we will have of the poem itself. This could result in a substantial change on the part of the reader regarding his or her own feelings about the poem. Subsequently, feelings of loneliness and fear could easily turn into feelings of enjoyment of the poem and all that it represents. This clearly shows that the application of the psychological approach of literary criticism along with the linguistic discourse analysis help the reader delve into the denotative and figurative meanings and subsequently appreciate the poem and accept it at its own merits. It is certainly hoped that this study will make a substantial contribution to the already existing body of literature attempting to figure out the numerous layers of meaning embedded within the lines of this monumental poem.


Poe; Raven; Psycho-linguistics; Discourse; Critical

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3968/n


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