Writing Techniques in Poe's "The Raven"
Edgar Allan Poe uses several writing techniques to create a single concentrated effect of unending despair in his classic poem, "The Raven." The most noticeable technique is the use of repetition. Just as repeated exposure to cold raindrops can chill one to the bone, repeated exposure to words of hopelessness and gloom creates a chilling effect. Poe saturates the reader with desperate futility by repetitive use of the words "nothing more" and "nevermore." These two phrases, used in refrain to end seventeen of the poem's eighteen stanzas, drench the reader with melancholy. Poe also uses repetition to spark the reader's curiosity. He refers to the sound of rapping or tapping eight times in the first six stanzas. The unexplained repetitive sound helps the reader identify with the search for answers that the speaker is experiencing. Poe makes use of repetition to emphasize feeling with the words, "'Surely,' said I, 'surely that is something at my window lattice'" (33). Repeating the word "surely" adds a sense of desperation concerning the search.
Poe uses a gothic setting to create an atmosphere of gloom. The time is described as "a midnight dreary" (1) in "the bleak December" (7). The supernatural is referred to through the words "ghost" (8), "angels" (11, 81, 95), "Plutonian" (47), "soul" (19, 56, 93, 99,107), "ominous" (70), "unseen censer" (79), "prophet" (85, 91), "thing of evil" (85, 91), "devil" (85, 91), and "demon" (105). The time of night and the inhospitable weather outside allow no escape from the speaker's chamber which becomes a chamber of horror.
Contrast intensifies the sense of gloom. The windy, bleak, December night is contrasted to a room full of books, rich furnishings, and a fire (1-8, 41, 69). Poe describes Lenore as a "rare and radiant maiden" (11, 95). This rare radiance stands in stark contrast to the "grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous" raven who now never leaves his chamber (71). Lenore is referred to as a "sainted maiden" (94), whereas the raven is referred to as a "prophet!" and a "thing of evil!" (85, 91). The radiance of Lenore is contrasted with the speaker's soul, which he describes as being under a shadow (107). These contrasts serve to draw attention to the most significant contrast described in the poem: an intelligent, well-read, loving man interprets a bird seeking shelter on a cold night as an emblem of never-ending anguish and succumbs to depression and madness.
Poe masterfully chooses his words to create an effect. He introduces the idea that the tapping is caused by something at his window lattice (33) followed by "Let me see, then, what thereat is" (34). His choice of the word "thereat" is interesting in that it suggests the word "threat". The sharp "t" sound at the end of "thereat" conjures the sound of pecking on glass. The experience of hearing what the speaker hears serves to increase the bond the reader feels with the speaker. ...