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."