Darth Vader as the Raven

American Literature

Julia Joyce

I have discovered that the voice a piece of writing is read in has a drastic effect on its mood and how it is received.  If you have ever tried to listen to an audio book with a very monotone voice you experienced the disinterest in reading the book that voice produces.  On the other hand, James Earl Jones has anything but a monotone voice.  He was the voice of Darth Vader.  His reading of Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven” does not disappoint.  It definitely increases the creepy factor.

On the other end of the spectrum is the Simpson’s take on “The Raven.”  This is probably an unpopular opinion, but I am not a fan of this show.  I just do not find it funny, but I do appreciate the way the show takes what could be serious or dark and turns it on its head into something light and humorous.

Sometimes we do this in life.  In tense situations we make jokes to lighten the mood.  It is a human defense mechanism to avoid difficult emotions and situations.  Have you ever laughed at the most inappropriate time, like at a funeral?  I think we can only take so much seriousness before we have to distract ourselves.  That is why there is satire and sitcoms, so we can escape.  To some degree this is healthy, but at some point we have to face the pain and emotion.  Not only do the writers of the Simpsons bring comic relief, but they also bring an interesting interpretation to the scene.

The provided interpretation of the story is that the raven drives Homer to a point of rage and he runs around yelling at the raven.  At one point Homer runs into a bookshelf and a whole bunch of Poe’s works fall on his head.  He tries to attack the raven to make it go away.  Instead of a sad disposition at the loss of his loved one that would never return, he is portrayed as an angry man on the brink of madness.  If a raven refused to leave and kept repeating the phrase “nevermore” I may react with the same near crazed look.

At first, the narrator had no idea what the noise he was hearing was.  He thought it was someone knocking at the door.  When he opens the door he is expecting someone to be there, but there was no one.  So he stands there hoping against hope that maybe it is the impossible and his Lenore is there.  Poe writes, “Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing, Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before.”  Then, he reasoned it was something at the window, or maybe just the wind.  Finally, this raven comes sweeping in.  It does not take long for the narrator to realize that the bird only ever says one thing.  “Nevermore.”  The narrator asks the bird a succession of questions, but he finally gets to the question of if he will ever hold his Lenore again.  Poe writes it more eloquently, “Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn, It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore—Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore.”  Why does the narrator torture himself that way?  He knows what the raven is going to say.

Does he ask so he can have some closure?  Does he just want to feel pain?  Sometimes we do that.  We watch chick flicks or tragic movies even though we know they will make us cry.  Sometimes we watch them just so we can cry.  We do things that remind us of someone that is no longer with us for whatever reason.  We go to a place we only went with them, we listen to sad music or music that reminds us of them, or we eat a food that we always ate with them.  Do we do this because we enjoy pain?  I thought we tended to lighten our pain with humor or avoid it?  I think sometimes the pain reminds us that we are still human.  Sometimes we have to check that all of our emotions are still there.  Sometimes pain is the best reminder of the person that we miss.  Sometimes we punish ourselves out of guilt with the pain of missing a person.  Really, the answer is that humans are complicated and we feel emotion for all sorts of reasons, and there is usually some complicated web of intentions behind our actions.

Earlier in the semester we read Poe’s explanation for how he wrote this poem.  He had logical explanations for every aspect, down to what vowels he wanted to use because certain sounds give it a darker tone (and after hearing it read by James Earl Jones I can see his point a little better) and exactly how long the poem should be.  The irony is that human emotions are not logical.  You do not feel the emotion in the poem because you think “oh, that sound the vowel makes leaves me feeling depressed.”  You empathize with the guy who lost his lover and is now being tortured by a bird (torturing himself with the loss may be more accurate).  It is a little difficult to plan and logically explain how readers will experience emotion.

That is the annoyingly wonderful thing about life, we have emotions.  We cannot always control them, but we cannot ignore them.  We can pretend like they do not exist, but that usually just means they will catch back up to us.  Emotions keep life crazy and interesting, and sometimes difficult.  We are all just trying to navigate our way through the ups and downs while juggling our emotions.

I am not really sure how I got onto this topic, but I think it was because someone was just crying to me, and then I watched a movie that may or may not have made me cry.  I was just thinking about how much work and how annoying emotions can be sometimes.  Unfortunately, the healthiest way to deal with them is to face them and process them.  I will stop talking about emotion now, but if you want to feel sad and possibly cry if you are a crier then I recommend “The Raven”.