Thursday, March 26, 2015

What is this Gentle Rapping at My Chamber Door?

Raven by Bekka Tor
The Raven by Fuacka
In Edgar Allan Poe's classic poem The Raven, the narrator - a fellow who has lost his love - nearly has a conniption fit because of  knocks at his door. He tries to convince himself it's nothing; the knocker is an unexpected guest. Showing up on his doorstep at an ungodly hour. In December. During a violent storm...

Actually, I would probably be just as freaked out.

However, the narrator's visitor is a talking raven. At first he finds it to be a welcome distraction from his ruminations. Then, as the bird sits on a bust of Pallas without stirring, the narrator becomes agitated again.  Despite the bird's stillness (or, rather, because of it) and lack of vocabulary, the speaker becomes increasingly distressed. He imagines that the bird is actually a demon. The poem ends with the narrator in miserable distress.

So, what changed that made the narrator run through almost all these emotions (sadness, fear, bemusement, sorrow, anger)? Nothing we can see.

The changes are all internal. They all happen inside the narrator!

Instead of looking at this bird as an opportunity (talking bird!) he looks at it as a portent of doom. Yes, yes. Ravens feed on carrion and are generally considered bad omens. But if the bird is an omen, the narrator has a choice: be afraid of what might come or use the warning as a way to change the future.

Shot by Brendon1000
What if the raven is there to illustrate what the speaker's life will be like if he continues to pine away over his dead love?

Or, perhaps he was there to let the narrator know that the birds are planning an uprising and he'd do well to stock up on seed and maybe plant a worm bed.

Maybe the raven's single word, nevermore, was not a warning, but a promise: nevermore would the narrator be alone. (Admittedly, this could also be considered a threat. But that's a different post.)

When Hitchcock's horrific vision of a world overrun by birds comes to be, humans will need to be able to find the positive side. While going to school or work might be a tad more treacherous, feathered headdresses will come back into fashion. There will be fewer insects. Recipes for black bird pie will be in vogue. Just imagine the culinary adventures!

Opportunity knocks all the time. A bad omen is a chance to get out of the way of the truck that's bearing down on you at seventy miles per hour.

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