The works of Edgar Allen Poe are some of the most complex pieces in literature. His affinity to the darkness that surrounds each human being's soul left a wake of controversy during his time. "The Raven" is one of Poe's most famous pieces. In typical Poe fashion, the theme in this poem revolves around death and the loss of a beautiful woman named "Lenore." During the period in which the poem was published, Poe's wife was gravely ill. Could this poem be a reflection of Poe's distress and grief over the thought of losing his wife? Poe invites his readers to feel his pain and torment by captivating them with imagery, alliteration, and symbolism. The rhythm that the reader begins to feel when reading this poem propels him forward like a slow heartbeat struggling to quicken the pace.
In the first line of the poem, "Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary" (1), the tempo and the mood are set. Assonance, repetition of vowel sounds, is used to initiate the rhythm. "Weak and weary" allow the reader to feel how the narrator feels. The reference to “midnight dreary" sets the time frame of the poem and creates an imagery that is very important. The author is "pondering" over a "forgotten lore", but is in a stupor when he is brought back to reality when " . . . suddenly there came a tapping, / as of someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door" (4-5). Like a slow drumbeat we move on through the poem and are introduced to more alliteration and imagery.
One can only begin to imagine how desolate this man is. He is struggling with his sorrow and is painfully reminded of his loneliness when he glimpses into the darkness before him:
Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the darkness gave no token,
And the only word there spoke was the whispered word, "Lenore!"
This I whispered and an echo murmured...