Please explain the repetition used and its effect in "The Raven."

In "The Raven," repetition is used to create a sense of unease and dread, as well as to chart the speaker's arc from the fragile hope of seeing his beloved again in the afterlife to total despair.

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Repetition in "The Raven" is used to create a sense of dread more than anything, though it also gives the reader a glimpse into the psychology of the poem's speaker, who is a grief-stricken man obsessed both with the woman he has lost and the question of life after death.

Initially, the most obvious repetition in the poem is the speaker wondering about the cause of the rapping at his chamber door:

While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“'Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door—Only this and nothing more.”

Here, the speaker is trying to reassure himself that everything is okay. He is not convinced that this is true, and usually repeating a mantra or thought can have a calming effect. The speaker repeats this general line of thought throughout much of the first section of the poem before the raven itself starts chipping away at his fragile sense of security.

Another instance of repetition occurs with the constant invoking of the name Leonore. This repetition shows the speaker's obsession with his lost love. She utterly dominates his thoughts.

The most famous repetition in the poem is the raven's repeated "nevermore." Blunt and harsh, the constant repetition of "nevermore" drives the speaker to despair over the hope of being reunited with Leonore in a possible life after death. Depending upon one's interpretation of the speaker's character and the nature of the raven itself, the speaker is either having his hopes crushed or his unspoken convictions brought into the open. At any rate, the repetition has all the force of a hammer constantly driving a nail deeper into a wall: the poem ends with the speaker himself saying he will not recover from his grief, repeating the raven's "nevermore" himself. Repetition, which was initially used as a comfort, has now driven the speaker into total despair.

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There are a number of explanations that might account for the frequent repetition in this poem. For example, when the speaker repeats, at the beginning of the poem, variants of the phrase, "'Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door," it gives the impression that he is, at the time, trying to reassure himself. He is trying to reassure himself that it really is only some earthly visitor, and not something more horrifying.

There are also some examples of repetition in the poem where it seems like the narrator is trying to recall, as precisely as he can, exactly how the events of that night unfolded. The poem is written in past tense, meaning it is told retrospectively, and the events of that evening are so odd that the narrator is keen to get the details right. This is why he sometimes repeats relatively incidental phrases like "above my chamber door."

The main example of repetition in the poem is, of course, the repetition of the only word muttered by the raven: "Nevermore." This word emphasises, repeatedly, how the speaker will never again see his lost love, Lenore, and also how he will never again be happy without her. The fact that the raven constantly, remorselessly reminds the speaker of this is what most tortures him. Each repetition is like another cruel blow, driving the narrator deeper and deeper into anger and despair.

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In the first stanza, the narrator says,

While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.

The repetition of the "-ing" suffix in napping, tapping, and rapping helps to establish a kind of hypnotic sound, especially the repetition of the word rapping, used twice consecutively in the second line above. Repetition like this, in conjunction with the steady meter of the poem—trochaic octameter—lulls us and spooks us a little at the same time.

In the second stanza, the narrator repeats the word sorrow, again, twice consecutively on the same line. Here, the repetition seems to draw attention to the narrator's fragile emotional state on this particularly bleak December night.

In the third stanza, almost an entire line is repeated when the narrator says,

"Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door—
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door;
This it is and nothing more."

Here, the repetition makes it seem as though the narrator is unsure and attempting, by repeating, to reassure himself that everything is all right and there is nothing to fear from the tapping on the door.

In the fifth stanza, the word word is repeated three times and the word whispered repeated twice when the narrator says,

And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, "Lenore?"
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, "Lenore!"

The breathiness of the repeated "w" sound in these two words occurs five times in these two lines, and the soft, windy sound seems to echo the content of what the narrator is saying.

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One of the most memorable things about Poe's "The Raven" is the repetition of the word "nevermore" at the end of nearly every stanza. The bird probably only knows that one word, but it becomes a symbol of death. The constant repetition of "nevermore" make it seem that death itself is not only inescapable but even the thought of death becomes inescapable as one gets older and the fact of death becomes more and more stark. What the speaker of the poem finds most terrible about the fact of death is that it obliterates everything in eternal darkness. He asks the bird if there is any possibility that he might be reunited with his dead loved one Lenore in some afterlife, and the bird pitilessly and relentlessly repeats the same one word "as if his soul in that one word he did outpour." When any loved one dies we are likely to be haunted by the thoughts of what we should have said to them, or not said to them, while they were still alive. In the end the speaker can neither console himself with the possibility of finding "balm in Gilead" (hope in the promises of the Bible) nor forget about the question altogether. The black bird refuses to leave and has nothing more to say.

  

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