Vocabulary in The Raven

The Raven 13
"Plutonian..."   (The Raven)

Plutonian means of or relating to the underworld. Pluto was the Roman god of the underworld, and the "shore" refers to the River Styx, one of the major rivers in the underworld. The narrator is banishing the Raven back to the hell he assumes it came from.

"Tempter..."   (The Raven)

"Tempter" is another name for the Devil. The narrator begins to imagine the bird as an evil entity sent by the Devil. The Raven now takes on supernatural qualities—he is no longer a normal bird that learned a word from a former master, but the embodiment of death, the Devil's orders, and evil.

"gloated..."   (The Raven)

"Gloated" in this context means to gaze with malignant pleasure, to feast one's eyes upon. Notice that the narrator personifies his surroundings with words that make them menacing. The narrator imagines everything as hostile, and demonstrates his feelings of vulnerability.

"dirges..."   (The Raven)

A dirge is a lament sung for the dead especially during funeral rites. Here the narrator plays on birdsong and blames the melancholic word for transforming the Raven's birdsong into a dirge. "Nevermore" therefore becomes a symbol of death and dying that destroys hope.

"Perched..."   (The Raven)

Perched means both seated on a perch and to be presumptuous and assertive. The narrator ascribes power to the Raven in repeating this word three times. The Raven reflects the narrator's unstable mental state and dejected psychological state; he feels powerless against a mere bird.

"obeisance..."   (The Raven)

Obeisance is the respectful acknowledgement of one's superior. Notice that the narrator immediately attributes human characteristics to this bird, even before it speaks. Because one would not normally expect an animal to bow or perform social customs upon entering a chamber, this expectation reveals the narrator's unstable mental state.

"lattice..."   (The Raven)

A "window lattice" is a window in which the pieces of glass are set in diagonally crossing strips of wood, vinyl, or metal. In the 19th century, windows were made this way because large single sheets of glass were extremely expensive due to primitive glass making technology.

"“Nevermore.”..."   (The Raven)

“Nevermore” can be interpreted to mean no as well as never again. This first instance of speech captures the narrator’s attention, and while he initially regards the Raven’s refrain as nonsense, it soon takes hold in his mind as something meaningful.

"nepenthe..."   (The Raven)

Imagining a perfumed presence in the room, the narrator asks if the Raven has been mercifully sent by God to bring him nepenthe, a potion of forgetfulness mentioned in Greek mythology. The Raven, of course, replies with a bleak “Nevermore,” which the self-tormenting narrator takes to mean that he will never find a moment’s rest from his grief.

"the distant Aidenn..."   (The Raven)

The narrator’s ultimate question is if he will be reunited with Lenore in “Aidenn,” a poetic spelling of Eden, after he dies. The contrast between his self-description and Lenore reveals how lowly the narrator regards himself and how highly he regards his memory of Lenore.

"is there balm in Gilead..."   (The Raven)

Gilead was a region known in biblical times for its healing plants. The narrator desperately implores the Raven to tell him if there is “balm” or medicine as promised in the Bible, metaphorically questioning whether there is any hope or remedy in religion for his grief.

"Night's Plutonian shore..."   (The Raven)

This adjective relates to the underworld realm of the Roman god Pluto who guarded the entrance to the world of the dead. The narrator's choice to associate this word choice with the night suggests his fear of the closeness of death, the supernatural, and the raven’s association with these things as a messenger of sorts.

"Perched upon a bust of Pallas..."   (The Raven)

Pallas, a reference to Pallas Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom, is representative of knowledge, reason, and logic, while the Raven embodies imagination, darkness, and the unknown. By having the Raven perch unceremoniously on the bust, Poe is possibly belittling wisdom itself, suggesting that when the two collide, imagination will overpower reason.