What is the atmosphere of "The Raven" by Edgar Allen Poe?

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Lynnette Wofford eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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As with many of Edgar Allen Poe's works, "The Raven" depends for its effects on creating a distinct atmosphere of gloom, melancholy, and foreboding. This atmosphere is evoked in three ways, by the setting of the poem, by the narrator's feelings, and by use of language.

The setting of the poem is dark and gloomy. The time of day is midnight and the narrator is reading alone. The time of year is December, when it is cold and dark in the northern hemisphere. The narrator's fire is dying down to embers.

The narrator himself is in despair due to the death of his beloved Lenore. He commits what literary critics refer to as the "pathetic fallacy" of projecting his own despair onto external objects, seeing the raven as dark and foreboding when it is, in reality, just a bird; a more cheerful person might have found it entertaining or even cute. 

The language of the poem contributes to the melancholic and fearful mood by emphasizing words such as "nevermore,", "dreary," "weary," "dying," and "sorrow."


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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Atmosphere is the same thing as mood. Atmosphere/mood identifies the emotional feeling within the narrative. Atmosphere/mood is very different from tone since tone identifies the author's feelings about the subject matter or about the characters at hand. In "The Raven," the reader's experience is suspenseful, anticipating horror and trouble. This is because the emotional feeling within the narrative, the atmosphere, is one of quietude interrupted by trembling fear.

This is because the character hears a tapping at his door; he is alarmed; he realizes it is a visitor; he opens the door and finds nothing there, nothing but darkness: "Darkness there, and nothing more,..." His alarm turns to fear: "I stood there wondering, fearing,..." This is the atmosphere of "The Raven": trembling fear:

filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before; So that now, to still the beating of my heart ...
all my soul within me burning,...

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