Edgar Allan Poes poem, The Raven, describes how the narrator in the poem was almost asleep while reading an old book and thinking of his dead love when he encounters a raven at his window. The voice the bird reminds him of his love whom he will never see again. Poe uses many literary devices like alliteration and rhyme throughout the poem. He creates a mood which is somber throughout the poem.
The poem contains eighteen stanzas that contain the ABCBBB rhyme pattern. The entire poem is mostly trochaic octameter with eight stressed-unstressed two-syllable feet per lines. The use of a longer line enables the poem to be more of a narration of the evenings events. Poe uses internal rhymes throughout his poem. The internal rhyme occurs in the first and third lines of each stanza. The external rhyme of the or sound in Lenore and nevermore at the end of each stanza imitates the haunting nature of the narrators thoughts. The internal rhyme along with the same external rhyme repeated at the end of each stanza. He uses other literary devices such as alliteration and assonance which gives the poem a driving chant-like sound. In the first line, the repetitive use of the letter w in the words, weak and weary, adds to the tired drained feeling the narrator is experiencing. The second line repeats the k sound in quaint and curious which helps make the items he is reading seem peculiar. In the third line, the n-n-n in nodded, nearly napping sound feels ominous. The repetition of the n sound feels drawn out and tired. Not quite as hard as a d, it feels like someone trying to stay awake.
The poem begins with the words Once upon a like a fairy tale beginning with Once upon a time. However, we get Once upon a midnight dreary instead. The opening is more reminiscent of a ghost story. The narrator is reading a quaint and curious volume forgotten lore. Quaint and curious alludes to the lore being weird and mysterious. The fact that it is forgotten alludes to it being secret and unknown. Lore alludes to it being untrue. Perhaps it contains recipes and spells for nepenthe, a serum to help one forget. When the narrator states that he nodded, nearly napping we know he is tired but does not sleep. I think he is afraid of what his dreams will bring. He is hoping whatever is in the books will bring him more of an escape than sleep would.
We also know that the narrator is thinking or pondering something. This pondering is happening while he tired where his mind may not be sharp. This is the first of many allusions to the narrators trustworthiness regarding the events of the evening. The repetition of the apping sound in napping, tapping, rapping, rapping, and tapping adds to the driving beat of the poem. This repetition of onomatopoeic words makes it feel as if there is actually someone continuously knocking at the door. Also, if there was a person there they would not continually rap on the door as the poem suggests. The rapping is likely happening in the narrators head. The rapping is taking place at the chamber door which is usually a door on the inside of a house. It is curious that this does not strike the narrator as odd that there would be a visitor inside his house knocking on his door. The narrator then tries to convince himself that it is only a visitor. This shows his anxiety that it may not be only this and nothing more.
The second stanza starts with a reference to the narrators memory, which he says his distinct. This may be only because he has a vivid imagination and is able to make things up and add in imagined details. The rhyme of the bleak December, the cold last month of the year, with dying ember shows the narrator has death on his mind. The ghost of each ember invokes the image of the shadow and the light made by each ember. This is a representation of the dichotomy of the narrator. Is he truthful or lying? A dying ember on the floor is hardly bright enough to cause a shadow. The ember causing a shadow shows how the narrator is bringing darkness and doubt to the evening through his unreliable recount.
The narrator goes on to wish the morrow, not sleep. He is afraid of the night when his imagination runs away with him. He is after a way to forget about Lenore, however he says her name twice and dwells on her beauty. Poe uses assonance here to emphasize her descriptions with a long a sound in radiant, maiden, and angels. The narrator then says he will not say Lenores name again. However, this is a lie. We hear her name again repeatedly in the rest of the poem. The narrator is either trying to forget about Lenore and not in control of his thoughts or lying about his desire to rid her from his mind.
In the third stanza the curtain is not actually sad and uncertain; the narrator is making them in his minds eye. The mention of fantastic terrors never felt before is another hint at the narrators runaway imagination. Has he really never been as scared before as he is now of some rustling curtains? If he never has then he is making himself more scared than he should be. If he has been this scared then he is lying and his trustworthiness for the entire evening is in question.
Poe uses personification in the first line of the third stanza. This gives the curtain greater emotional appeal and makes it more significant. The alliteration of the s sound in silken, sad, uncertain, and rustling is onomatopoeic in that it sounds like the ends of curtains moving along the floor. The rhyme of thrilled and filled with the stop in the middle feels like wind twirling up the curtains and we can see the narrators eyes light up. The narrator then needs to convince himself again that the tapping is nothing more than a visitor; he stands and repeats it to himself. He has already convinced himself that it is more than just a visitor.
In the fourth stanza, Poe grows stronger in spirit to go and explain to his imagined guest that he was resting and heard some noise at his door. But when he goes to investigate the disturbance, there is no one there except darkness.
In the fifth stanza, the narrator has drifted off to sleep and dreamt of his love and his wish to see her again. In his dream, he encounters silence and in that silence he whispers his loves name, Lenore. He only hears an echo of his voice saying her name and nothing more. Poe describes the dream as stillness which nothing was there, not even his love within his dreams.
The narrator hears the tapping becoming louder in the sixth stanza. This time the tapping is at his window. The narrator believes it is only the wind. The mans soul was burning after thinking of the invisible guest who keeps on disturbing him.
He flung open the shutters on his window in the seventh stanza when the raven flies into the room. Poe uses a raven as a symbol of death and darkness to portray the image of ill-omen. The raven flew into the room and perched on the bust of Pallas, the goddess of wisdom in Greek mythology, above his chamber door. When the narrator asks the Raven for his name and the narrator is surprised when the bird responds by croaking the word, "Nevermore." The narrator knows that the bird does not speak from wisdom, but has been taught by someone and that the word "nevermore" is the birds only vocabulary.
The narrator starts to smile after seeing the black colored bird and the look of the ravens face. The ravens feathers were trimmed by its previous owner. The narrator thought the raven had an amusing appearance despite the birds reputation of being a carrion-eater. Also within the eighth stanza, the narrator describes that the bird was perhaps from the Underworld, more precisely the shore of the River Styx, by incorporating Plutonian shore in the poem. At the end of this stanza, the man asks what is the birds name is. The bird responds, Nevermore. After the narrator asks for the ravens name in the eighth stanza, Poe describes, in the ninth stanza, the man is surprised to hear an understandable response even though the bird made no sense. The narrator feels that no one has ever had a bird with a funny name that is Nevermore and has one sitting on a statue above their door. In the tenth stanza, the raven is described as motionless and not speaking, other than the word Nevermore. The narrator feels that the bird will leave him like his friends have.
Poe describes the narrators thoughts of the ravens past owner and why the bird only spoke one word. The narrator imagines that the previous owner had a depressing time in his life and spoke the word Nevermore enough for the bird to learn and repeat it.