Which images in Edgar Allen Poe`s "The Raven" contribute to its gloomy atmosphere?

Expert Answers
litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The first image that leads to the gloomy atmosphere of the poem appears in the first line, where the speaker describes a “midnight dreary.”  Both words evoke gloom.  Even the words “many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore” are kind of creepy and make you think of a spooky story.

Referring to the room as a “chamber” adds to the spooky atmosphere.  The word just sounds so much gloomier than some simple word like “room.”  The images continue as the speaker says it’s a “bleak December” because bleak is a gloomy word and December is a cold, dead, winter month.  Consider these lines from the second stanza.

And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow; - vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow - sorrow for the lost Lenore (stanza 2)

Even before the Raven really appears (and a raven is a gloomy bird), there is plenty of gloom and doom as a lonely student sits up mourning a lost love.

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
`Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,' I said, `art sure no craven.
Ghastly grim and ancient raven wandering from the nightly shore – (stanza 8)

When the bird appears, more gloomy images come with it.  The word “ebony” and the black bird make you think of gloom.  Words like “grave” and “grim” do as well.


nancybarthtutoring | Student

Poe creates the gloomy atmosphere with descriptions of the setting and the feelings and flights of fancy of the narrator. Repetition of the word "nevermore" contributes to the feeling of gloom and futility. 

"midnight dreary"

"bleak December"

"dying ember"


"silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain"

"fantastic terrors"

"darkness there and nothing more"

"grave and stern decorum"

"Till the dirges of his Hope the melancholy burden bore

Of 'Never—nevermore.'"


"grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous"


"Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted"


"Leave my loneliness unbroken!—"


"And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted—nevermore"