To what extent is the symbolism in Edgar Allan Poe's 'The Raven' responsible for its continuing popularity and success? [approx 1540 words]

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Edgar Allan Poe, one of the world's most famous horror writers and the man credited with inventing the modern detective story, was born in Boston, Massachusetts on January 19th 1809. His short life ended at age forty but in these forty years Poe led an eccentric life, battled alcoholism and wrote some of America's most famous pieces of literature. Throughout his life Poe wrote over twenty short stories and composed many poems, all in the Gothic style that became synonymous with Poe himself.

'The Raven', written four years before his death, is an excellent example of Poe's Gothic, poetic style; composed of one hundred and eight lines and split into eighteen verses 'The Raven' is also one of Poe's longest poems not to mention one of his most famous. 'The Raven' is said to be written in trochaic octameter, a poetic structure which means that the poem is written in lines of eight 'trochees' or pairs of syllables - the first with a strong stress and the second with a weak.

This hypnotic method of writing gives 'The Raven' an almost lyrical feel as though it were a song, rather than a poem.

'The Raven' was first published in the New York Evening Mirror on January 29th 1845 and soon achieved international acclaim, being translated into many languages including a famous translation by French poet Stéphane Mallarmé.

So what is the secret to the popularity of 'The Raven' which continues 160 years after its first publication? The simple answer to this is that Poe, in 'The Raven', created a unique masterpiece which amalgamated many elements which, on their own, would not have had such an effect on a reader. The hypnotic method in which Poe wrote this poem, the gripping narrative composition, the atmosphere created by Poe's style of...