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How does Edgar Allan Poe create the mood of melancholy in this excerpt of his poem,...

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lala5646 | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted June 22, 2009 at 9:55 PM via web

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How does Edgar Allan Poe create the mood of melancholy in this excerpt of his poem, "The Raven"? "Deep into the darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortals ever dared to dream before; But the silence was unbroken, an the stillness gave no token, And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, "Lenore?" This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, "Lenore!" Merely this, and nothing more."

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luannw | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted June 22, 2009 at 10:58 PM (Answer #1)

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First of all, the words themselves give the poem's lines the melancholy mood.  Poe was a master of chosing words that created mood.  In this poem, words such as "darkness", "fearing", "doubting", "echo", "nothing" all give a feeling of silence and of being completely alone.  His phrases work the same way, "deep into the darkness", "stillness gave no token", "silence was unbroken", "nothing more".  Also, Poe repeated words to emphasize the mood.  He repeats "dreaming" and "dreams" three times; "whispered" is also repeated.  When he doesn't repeat the word, he uses alliteration to continue the mood in such instances as "silence" and "stillness" and all the "d's" used in the first two lines that you cite.  Then, Poe uses the sentences to create mood.  He tells us that the narrator is so alone that when he merely whispers the word "Lenore", the word is echoed back to him.  That's a very intense silence when a whisper echoes! The narrator is whispering the name of his deceased love in an earnest hope of hearing her voice but all he hears is his own voice.  It is clear that he is grieving tremendously over her death.

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dalepowell1962 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

Posted June 22, 2009 at 11:02 PM (Answer #3)

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Poe liked to use words for their sounds as well as their meanings.  He uses the hard d sound in the first two lines a total of seven times conveying a sense of urgency.  The melancholy mood is captured when he couples the alliteration with doubt, dreams, wonder and fear.  In fact he takes an unusual grammatical turn in using "fearing" as an appositive for "wondering" and he modifies "dreaming" with "doubting".

In the silence, the narrator murmurs the word "Lenore" and has it echoed back to him.  Having already been told that Lenore is dead creates a chilling sense in this midnight hour on a dark December night.

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engtchr5 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

Posted June 22, 2009 at 11:24 PM (Answer #4)

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There are many devices which make this excerpt "melancholy," but I will focus on two: imagery and sound.

First, the imagery presented draws a dark and mournful picture in the reader's mind's eye. Words like darkness give the impression of grief and loss, and this diction combines with our second factor, sound, to give the reader the general indication of sadness.

Sound, as used by Poe in this excerpt, is intentionally meant to sound like a funeral dirge. Think of words like "Lenore, before, and more." All three have the drawn out sound of the short "O" combined with a hard "R."  This is done intentionally, as Poe was using the sound of language to connote grief, much like a sad piece played on a pipe organ. Had he used words like "bright, flight, sight, and might," those words would have carried a cleaner and altogether happier sound. As it is, however, Poe uses the above tools, imagery and sound, to let his readers know of his intimate sadness. 

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friedch1cken | Student, Grade 9 | Honors

Posted September 27, 2011 at 1:21 AM (Answer #6)

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The mood of “The Raven” is heavily influenced by its language. From the very start, the speaker uses words like bleak, weary, dreary, and sorrow to depict his situation and his feelings. Poe continues to build on the sadness that these early stanzas create, particularly with the use ofthe refrain, “Nevermore.” This word, though uttered by a bird, captures the hopelessness that the speakerfeels over the loss of his beloved. Other factors that contribute to the sad and desperate mood of the poem include the speaker’s increasing state of despair and excitement and the still, immovable nature of the raven perched above his chamber door.

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