What is the setting of "The Raven" (month/weather)?

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Rebecca Hope eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The time of year in which Poe's poem "The Raven" is set is quite clear, but the narrator's description of the weather is contradictory. The narrator clearly states that the event occurred in "the bleak December" and that the time of day was midnight. However, in the beginning of the poem, the weather seems unremarkable. The weather must have been calm enough for the man, who was reading by lamplight, to have heard the gentle rapping and faint tapping at his "chamber door." If a storm had been raging outside, such a slight knocking would have been imperceptible. In fact, when the man goes to the door, expecting to find a visitor, only "silence" and "stillness" greet him. He whispers, "Lenore," and the night is calm enough for him to hear the echo of his whisper. When the knocking comes again, he thinks it must be the wind, even though when he opened the door previously, there had been no wind.

When the bird enters, the narrator begins to theorize about how it got there, wondering "whether tempest tossed thee here ashore." However, that does not mean there is currently a tempest; it could have been a previous tempest that brought the bird to the man's locale. When the man tries to expel the raven, he shouts, "Get thee back into the tempest!" There are three possible meanings here. One, he is referring to a previous tempest, the one that brought the raven ashore, and is metaphorically telling the bird to go back from whence it came. Two, a storm has come up during the time the raven has been in the man's chamber; this is unlikely considering how quiet and still the night had been earlier. Third, the man is becoming mentally unhinged and has no accurate perception of what the weather outside is; he is projecting his internal tempest onto the meteorological milieu. Given the dramatic ending of the poem where the man falls into a deep depression, this final option seems most likely. Therefore, the external setting during the poem is a calm evening, but the internal setting of the man's psyche is tempestuous. 

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mwestwood eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Often employing pathetic fallacy with his settings, Poe creates an ambiance of physical setting, atmosphere , and time that adds a shuddering emphasis to the language of the poem itself. In "The Raven," it is a "midnight dreary" in a "bleak December" and darkness that...

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california10 | Student

december and Dreary

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superpoop321 | Student

The weather outside in the Raven was very snowy in the bleak December.

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lpteach | Student

December and it was very cold out.

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