Greek Culture and Mythology: “The Raven” features numerous allusions to Greek culture and mythology in order to suggest to readers how to interpret fantastical events and to show the narrator’s level of education.
- The raven perches on a bust of Pallas Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom. This suggests that the raven may be sentient, a giver of wisdom—or the narrator may be ascribing importance to the raven’s perching there that happened only by chance.
- “Night’s Plutonian shore” refers to the underworld ruled by Pluto, the Roman god of the dead. The narrator suggests that the raven is a being from the underworld, connecting it to the dead, including his lost love. This sets up the narrator’s pleading for information regarding Lenore from the raven.
- The word “nepenthe” alludes to a drug that, according to the ancient Greeks, offered relief from sorrow. That the narrator references this mythological substance shows his education and his desperation to be relieved from his overwhelming depression.
Biblical Allusions: Allusions to biblical beings and stories emphasize the purity of Lenore and the depth of the narrator’s grief.
- In referencing seraphim, Poe alludes to an order of angels described several times in the Bible as having six wings and standing in the presence of God. Poe’s narrator is so desperate that he imagines that God’s angels have taken an interest in making him forget Lenore by bathing the room in pleasant perfume.
- When asking the raven if there is “Balm in Gilead,” the narrator refers to an ointment with healing properties that was made in Gilead, a region in ancient Palestine. He is looking for answers as to whether his life will improve and if he will ever find peace, which requires this mythical healing agent.
- “Aidenn” is a poetic spelling of the word “Eden,” as in the Garden of Eden, the paradise of Adam and Eve before they were corrupted by sin. This allusion either refers the narrator’s asking if he’ll ever get to see Lenore in heaven again or it expresses a desire on the narrator’s part to return to a state of innocence. Either way, the narrator is crushed and angered when the raven predictably replies with “Nevermore.”