What is the setting in The Raven?
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“The Raven” contains several clues that tell the reader about the setting of the poem. They are found in stanzas 1, 2, 3, and 7.
In the first stanza, the speaker provides the reader with the time: it was “a midnight dreary.” If you reverse the order of these two words, you will find its description easier—a dreary midnight. Therefore, the speaker recalls his experience of the Raven’s visitation occurring one unexciting late night, early morning.
Later in this same stanza, the speaker provides us with another clue to the setting; this one provides the place: the speaker hears a knocking at his “chamber door.” The speaker assumes that “'tis some visitor,” which shows us that the speaker can often be found there in his chamber. The chamber is likely the speaker’s bedroom or a room in which he studies his books--his “many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore.”
In the second stanza, more setting related to specific time is provided by the speaker: he says this experience occurred “in the bleak December.” (One interesting correlation here is similarity of the adjectives used for both descriptions of time: “Midnight dreary” and “bleak December” are equally gloomy.) With this extra description, the reader now knows that the Raven visits the man one midnight during December.
In the third stanza, one additional small description is given:
“And the silken, sad, uncertain rustling of each purple curtain”
This silk purple curtain is one of the few descriptions from the chamber itself. The flutter of the curtain is likely an eerie occurrence that is meant to increase the speaker's "terror." Another description of the speaker's room--the setting of this strange tale--comes in stanza seven where the Raven perches:
“upon a bust of Pallas just above [the speaker’s] chamber door.”
This may be something you wish to note, for the spot on which the Raven perches is a sculpture of the helmeted head of Pallas Athena, an Olympian Greek goddess. She is the goddess of wisdom, among other things. Depending upon what you might do with this poem later in class (or for yourself), it might be important to note that particular of the setting.
I’ve provided a link below to help you with other particulars of Poe’s “The Raven.”
The Raven is by far one of the most famous poems by Edgar Allan Poe. Poe has such a way with words that you feel immediately that you are a part of the story itself.
The Raven is set in a chamber of a house at midnight. There is an unnamed narrator, trying to forget his love, Lenore. He is trying to read to help ease his memories, when he hears a rapping at his door. He thinks it is a visitor and ignores it, but the rapping continues, and then he thinks it is his lost love coming back for him.
"Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December; And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor. Eagerly I wished the morrow- vainly I had sought to borrow from my books surcease of sorrow- sorrow for the lost Lenore- for the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore- Nameless here for evermore."
The grief the man feels is so tangible. You can sense how he loved Lenore. His undying love for her has made his life meaningless now that she is gone. This is one of the things that make this poem so popular. There is always an element of something supernatural at play with Poe, but in this poem, we see the love of this man. His love for Lenore outweighs anything else.
The setting in this poem includes both time and place. The author first gives us a sense of both mood and time with the first line:
"Once upon a midnight dreary,"
We as readers are then told that the author/narrator is in his study, as evidence is given of the books, the bust of Pallas, and the other ecoutrements that lend themselves to studious labors. We are certain that this is, at the very least, a room, as Poe refers to his "chamber door" multiple times throughout the poem. In closing, we can conclude that this poem is set in the 1800s, on a dark and stormy night, in the author's place of academic study and leisure.
Here is a film adaptation of the story:
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