The Raven: Finding Edgar Allen Poe
Edgar Allan Poe’s masterpieces of the macabre are the first taste many high school students get of classic American literature. During his short lifetime, Poe became an international celebrity, a fixture in the saloons of New York City and a guest at the White House. The creator of the detective genre and the godfather of gothic literature, Poe was a pioneer who created a fantastical mixture of beauty and horror, innocence and destruction that found unprecedented popularity with the general public.
During their research, screenwriters Ben Livingston and Hannah Shakespeare uncovered a much fuller, richer picture of their subject than they ever expected and incorporated many of their discoveries into the film. The Raven is packed with references to his life and work, including images of ravens, hearts and casks of sherry.
Some of the acclaimed stories and poems that can be found peppered throughout the film include “The Pit and the Pendulum,” “Murders in the Rue Morgue,” “The Cask of Amontillado,” “A Descent into the Maelstrom in the Bar,” “The Tell-Tale Heart,” “The Mask of the Red Death,” “Premature Burial,” “The Mystery of Marie Roget,” “The Metamorphosis of Narcissus,” “Annabel Lee” and, of course, “The Raven.”
Poe fans will be delighted as they decipher the clues and references hidden in plain sight:
. Just before he died, Poe was ranting about someone named Reynolds, which became the starting point for the film’s story.
. The last words Poe uttered were “Lord help my poor soul.”
. Some speculate that Poe’s sudden death was caused by rabies, which inspired the writers to create Carl, his pet raccoon (an animal known to carry the disease).
. As in the film, Poe was discovered near death on a park bench by a friend of his uncle.
. The character that falls victim to the pendulum is Rufus Wilmot Griswold, who in real life was Poe’s literary nemesis. Griswold wrote the obituary that cemented Poe’s posthumous (and many scholars say, false) reputation as a perverse, drug- and alcohol-addled dilettante.
. The costume ball and masked rider were inspired by the climactic scene in “The Mask of the Red Death.”
. Emily’s interment was taken from “Premature Burial.”
. The poem Poe presents to the Chesapeake Bay Ladies’ Poetry Society in the film is “The Raven,” for which he enjoyed enormous recognition during his lifetime.
. The lines Emily quotes to him are from his well-known poem “Annabel Lee.”
. Poe’s discovery of the dead cat in the alley is taken from “A Descent into the Maelstrom at the Bar.”