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Literary Devices in The Raven

Repetition: Poe uses repetition of the words “nothing more” to show the narrator’s gradually unraveling mental state. While at first he uses “nothing more” to reassure himself that there is nothing wrong, this “nothing more” evolves into the Raven’s “Nevermore,” a symbol of the narrator’s increasing hopelessness and descent into madness. By the end of the poem, the narrator has taken the word out of the bird’s mouth so that he can say “And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor / Shall be lifted—nevermore”; a statement of his ultimate despair and inconsolable hopelessness.

Rhyme Scheme: Poe uses words that rhyme with “more” throughout each stanza to unify the poem not only in theme and content but in structure as well. This rhyming pattern has a thundering, sonorous effect that adds to the intensity of the poem.

Literary Devices Examples in The Raven:

The Raven

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"nevermore..."   (The Raven)

The final "nevermore" in this poem comes from the narrator. The narrator gives over to the bird and adopts a fatalistic attitude: he is resigned to a future trapped within his sadness and imprisoned by his loss of Lenore.

"Nevermore..."   (The Raven)

Nevermore, which the narrator originally interpreted as the Raven's name here becomes a menacing threat: the narrator will never forget his lost Lenore, he will never recover from his grief. Notice that the meaning of "nevermore" underscores the narrator's decline into madness.

"Caught from some unhappy master..."   (The Raven)

The narrator realizes that the bird can only say this one word in a rote recitation. However, rather than dismissing his ability to speak as something random and meaningless, he creates a story to explain the Raven's word. He imagines a miserable master who repeated this word enough times that the bird learned it. Notice that the story the narrator ascribes to the bird's former master mirrors his own.

"Nevermore..."   (The Raven)

The second time the Raven utters this word, it suggests that he will never again leave this chamber. The narrator initially fears that the bird, a brief source of entertainment and levity, will leave him as his friends and hopes have. With this, he sees the Raven ominously promising to stay indefinitely, and the bird becomes more menacing than friendly.

"name..."   (The Raven)

The narrator first interprets the repetitive line as the bird's name. Nevermore, the state of being no longer, at no future time, or never again, recalls the narrator's first description of Lenore being "nameless here for evermore" because she has died. This suggests that the Raven is either an embodiment of his lost lover or death incarnate. The narrator sees the Raven is a symbol of loss and mortality.

"flung..."   (The Raven)

"Flung," meaning to open with haste or violence, directly contradicts the sense of calm the narrator tries to convince himself to feel in the previous stanza. His actions clash with his attempts to quiet his nerves, and this tension builds suspense within the poem.

"dream..."   (The Raven)

Poe uses a common trope of gothic and horror genres. Rather than describing a particular fear, he invites the reader to fill in the "fear" and "dream" with their own imagination. He emphasizes the darkness, the emptiness, and the unknowable to allow the possibility for supernatural horror to creep into both his own mind and the readers.

"nothing more. ..."   (The Raven)

Notice how the "nothing more" that the narrator was using to reassure himself that he was not hearing things has now changed from something reassuring to something not only unsettling but also upsetting.

"repeating..."   (The Raven)

Repetition is a literary technique that Poe uses throughout this poem. In the beginning, the narrator uses repetition to reassure himself and calm his nerves. However, this same technique will later be the source of his distress when the Raven begins to repeat "nevermore."

"Once upon a midnight dreary..."   (The Raven)

Poe begins his poem by playing with an opening well known in fairytales and folklore, "Once upon a time." This situates his story in the fantastical world of fairytales, but also establishes the dark and ominous setting of "dreary midnight."

"unseen censer Swung by Seraphim..."   (The Raven)

Notice Poe's use of subtle alliteration of s sounds in these two lines. After sounds in "denser...unseen censer," the reader might expect that to be all. But since Poe is describing a swinging censer containing burning incense, it is pleasantly surprising when the weighty (literary) device seems to swing back at the beginning of the next line with, "Swung by seraphim," two more alliterative s sounds.

"nothing more..."   (The Raven)

Notice how the narrator repeats “nothing more” to comfort himself and dismiss his fears, and how the effect of the phrase changes with each stanza. Poe repeats this refrain to emphasize the narrator’s increasingly agitated state of mind and to gradually develop the poem’s mysterious, threatening atmosphere.

"lore..."   (The Raven)

Also throughout the poem, Poe chooses words that rhyme with more in the second, fourth, fifth, and sixth lines to create a very strong, unified effect for the poem. In his “Philosophy of Composition,” Poe states that he consciously chose the or-sound because of its sonorous quality.

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