Alliteration In The Raven

Please discuss the alliteration in "The Raven" by Edgar Allan Poe.

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The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe, is Poe's most popular poem and the one he, personally, was most pleased with. It has a constant rhythm and many examples of alliteration, giving it a musical quality, and tells the sad story of Lenore, "the rare and radiant maiden," (rare and radiant are examples of alliteration), lost forever to the most despondent narrator.  The narrator is determined to torment himself as he dwells on his "sorrow for the lost Lenore." (Lost and Lenore are examples of alliteration.) 

Alliteration is a literary, sound device, using repeated sounds at the beginning of words, that allows the poet to emphasize particular words or phrases throughout the poem to ensure that the reader understands the message. In The Raven, the reader is almost hypnotized by the ongoing alliteration because the rhythm that it creates, and which is intensified by the rhyme and the word and phrase repetition, engrosses the reader in the poem and the narrator's misfortune as he hears the knocking: "Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortals ever dared to dream before." The repeated d-sound creates the alliteration and the effect. As the reader is gripped by the narrator's misfortune and excited by the apparent "visitor entreating entrance," (the repeated e-sound creates the alliteration) which has "filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before," the reader is anxious to continue and establish the source of the "tapping, tapping." The alliteration continues in the repeated f-sound (filled..., fantastic..., felt...) and the "t" from tapping.  

In this poem, the alliteration also helps to place the reader within the narrator's environment. The reader can relate to the narrator's concerns as he becomes more incensed with the raven "Perched upon a bust of Pallas." As the momentum builds and the rhyme intensifies, the alliteration as, "Much I marvelled," reveals the conflict that the narrator now feels as he is both annoyed and fascinated by this bird and is "Startled at the stillness broken."

The narrator is searching desperately for the meaning of the raven's entrance and is tormented: "On this home by horror haunted—tell me truly.." He cannot rest although he wants closure but resigns himself to eternal anguish: "my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor." 

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There are many examples of alliteration thoughout "The Raven." Below are a few selections.

Stanza 1:

weak and weary

nodded, nearly napping


Stanza 2:

surcease of sorror

lost Lenore

rare and radiant


Stanza 3:

silken sad uncertain


Stanza 5:

doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before


The most brilliant use of alliterations occurs in Stanza 14, where the "s" sound is repeated in "denser," "unseen," "censer," "Swung," and "Seraphim," and then the "f" sound is repeated in "foot-falls" and the "t" sound in "tinkled" and "tufted"--all in just two lines.

Stanza 14:

Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer

Swung by Seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.


The whole poem depends on alliterations as well as rhyme to move it along and to make it seem like a lyrical dirge. There is hardly a stanza that does not contain some use of alliteration as well as internal rhymes such as in:

And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting



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