The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe and Frankenstein by Mary Shelley are among the two most well-known works of dark romanticism. A common theme appearing in both narratives is death. This essay compares and contrasts how Poe and Shelley communicate the theme by looking at the elements of connotative language, symbolism, setting, characterization and plot, among others. It will also offer a conclusion on which work may possess a more satisfying resolution for readers that are very interested in dark romanticism.
What Edgar Allan Poe mainly talks about in his narrative poem titled The Raven is loss, undying devotion and lingering grief that does not end. Its narrator is a young man who is most likely a student and who has mourning the death of his fiancee called Lenore. He is desperately trying to lessen his pain by studying. However, he is driven back to his grief by a talking raven that is always uttering a well-known refrain that goes like nevermore. The phrase is a painful reminder of the fact that the narrator is unlikely to see his much-loved Lenore again.
Frankenstein tells the story of a young scientist called Victor who creates an intelligent but grotesque being in an unconventional scientific experiment. Death is a recurring theme throughout the narrative, with most of the characters meeting their demise in one way or another before the end. Those that survive are either about to meet their doom very soon, such as the creature, or could have already died without being mentioned in story, like Walton. Victors fear of death is what spurred him to create the monster in the first place. He had a mistaken belief that if he could figure out the secret of life, he could do away with old and eventually cheat death. Energized by the death of his mother and a strong notion that her death was unwarranted for, he finds a way of achieving his goal. Hence, Victor comes up with a new species that cannot suffer from disease or illness together with the ability to live forever.
The Raven begins with the narrator going about some studies in his room on a stormy night. However, it is revealed that he is not concentrating well because his mind keeps wandering to Lenore, his deceased lover. He hears a knock on the door although there is no one on the outside when he opens it. A raven then flies into the room through an open window and rests on a statue. Since the bird can actually speak, the student begins to ask it questions concerning various subjects although it only responds to each query with the phrase nevermore. As the questioning continues, it becomes personal and painful for him as the answers relate to his fallen fiancee. The narrative poem comes to an end with the bird still on the effigy. When it first gets into the room, the narrator does not seem amused by its entry. Towards the end, he views the bird as a satanic force only there to torture him.
Just like many other works by Edgar Allan Poe, this poem explores the impact of death in living in the form of mourning, grief, and memories of the dead. It also looks at the question that people who have lost loved ones are always asking themselves; whether there is life after death that will enable them re-unite in the afterlife. At the start of the poem, the narrator is seen to be studying in an attempt to distract himself from the grief that comes with losing a loved one. Also, given that he is reading books to do with forgotten lore, it would not be wrong to interpret that he is searching for arcane knowledge on ways of reversing death. Whatever the case, the manner in which he reacts to the passing away of a loved one is quite predictable; trying to deny death or escaping the pain associated with it.
Before the birds arrival, young man hears a knock on the door. After finding no one outside, he calls into the darkness Lenore? as if hoping that his dead fiancee had returned to him. After the raven arrives, he asks it if there is balm in Gilead, suggesting a hope that he might see her again in heaven. All in all, he is soon resigned into believing the fact that he will never lay his eyes on Lenore again. Edgar Allan Poe leaves it vague as to whether what the raven told the narrator was the truth , or just echoing his own anxieties about having lost his lover for good. Whatever the case, the narrative poem ends on a pessimistic note that there is no life after death.
It is ironic that, early in Frankenstein, Victor says "Wealth was an inferior object; but what glory would attend the discovery.if I could banish disease from the human frame, and render man invulnerable to any but a violent death!"(Shelley, 6). However, due to his actions, a majority of his family members and his friends meet horrible deaths in the hands of the monster. Victor intends to tamper with the natural death process in a godlike manner, only for it to turn the tables on him. He says, "Life and death appeared to me ideal boundswhich I should first break through, and pour a torrent of light into our dark world... I thought, that if I could bestow animation upon lifeless matter, I might in process of time . renew life where death had apparently devoted the body to corruption"(Shelley, 8). By the end of the story, he is of the opinion that death is the only he is now looking forward to. Here, it can be seen that the author is trying to put out a point across that death is inevitable, and that interfering with nature does have its consequences.
The raven happens to be the most obvious symbol of Edgar Allan Poes poem. It haughtily gets into the narrators room and holds dominion over him. Its darkness depicts death as a constant reminder. Also, Nights Plutonian Shore, a phrase in the poem, incorporates all the negative aspects to do with death. Considering that Pluto is the Roman underworld god, night is well-known symbol of death, and shore represents a vast ocean, the Plutonian adapts an enhanced meaning. The term midnight also goes a long way in symbolizing the theme of death in The Raven. Traditionally called the witching hour and the nights darkest part, it is not just time on a clock. Poe intentionally chose it to symbolize when the bird arrived.
Frankenstein suggests that an individual should not fear death and that they can die in peace if he or she has been a righteous person throughout their lives. Examples of characters in the book who exemplify this are Justine and Beaufort given that both their deaths are sacrifices. While looking for a means to overcome death, Victor vandalizes graveyards. By doing this, does not only show total disrespect for the natural order of things, but also for dead people. Every time a family member or friend of Victor does, his physique and state of mind appear to suffer. Such deterioration shows the powerful impact that death can have on others together with the resulting guilt for the person responsible.
Poe, Edgar Allan. The Raven illustrated by Gustave Dore. Narcissus. me, 2015. Print.
Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft. Frankenstein, Or, The Modern Prometheus 1818. Engage Books, 2008. Print.
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