Allusion in The Raven
“The Raven” features numerous allusions to the Bible, as well as Greek culture and mythology in order to suggest to readers how to interpret fantastical events and to show the narrator’s level of education.
Night’s Plutonian Shore: Poe makes several mention of the “Plutonian Shore,” a reference to the Greek underworld, where dead souls such as Lenore reside. Pluto is the god of the underworld. The shore is that of the River Styx, which souls must cross to reach the underworld.
Gilead: Gilead is a region in Jordan, famed in the Bible for producing botanical medicines. The “balm in Gilead” has become a common metaphor for a universal cure.
Nepenthe: Nepenthe is a narcotic, used by the ancient Greeks and made reference to in The Odyssey, known to chase away sorrow and erase memory.
Aidenn: “Aidenn” is a poetic spelling of Eden, which in the context of “The Raven” represents the narrator’s desire to return to a state of innocence.
Allusion Examples in The Raven:
"Perched upon a bust of Pallas..." See in text (The Raven)
Pallas may also refer to the daughter of the sea-god Triton, who raised Athena alongside his own children. According to some stories, Athena killed the young maiden Pallas. In her sorrow, Athena took Pallas’s name out of remembrance, referring to herself thenceforth as “Pallas Athena.” This myth is helpful in our understanding of “The Raven” in that Pallas represents a parallel of Lenore. Both Pallas and Lenore are tragically killed maidens who live on only in name.
"Nightly shore—..." See in text (The Raven)
The narrator perceives the Raven as a wandering ancient creature. In Genesis 8:7, Noah sends a dove and a raven in opposite directions to test if the water had receded enough for his family and the animals to leave the ark. The dove remains famous for returning and signaling the end of the flood. The raven never returns to the ark, and is lost to the night. Referencing the grim associations given to the bird since Greek mythology draws on a long standing history that relates this bird to wandering, absence, and omens.