Edgar Allan Poe was extraordinarily concerned with the technical aspects of writing. In addition to his poems, stories, and novels, Poe wrote several essays about the art and craft of writing. “The Raven” occupies a central place in his theorizing.
Highly concerned with the aesthetic aspects of literary creation, Poe elaborated these ideas in his essay, “The Philosophy of Composition.” Recommending that the ending be revealed at the outset so the poet could show the causes that led up to it, Poe emphasizes the aura of inevitability that the poet should create. His preferred method was to establish a notable “effect” at the outset; from there, he would work out how best to support that creative goal. He then uses “The Raven” to explain how he works out these theories; along with the intended effect is his assertion that a poem should be short, claiming that he had arbitrarily chosen 100 lines before he began to write. (It turned out to be 108 lines.) For the effect in this case, sound was the primary quality, and “nevermore” has the tones he wanted so he repeated it.
“The Raven” fit well into the popular sensibilities of his day. Following its 1845 publication, it was very well received and even called the best American poem of all time. Critic John M. Daniel, apparently understanding Poe’s goal, called it a work of “pure art” and compared it to a Beethoven overture.