Alliteration in The Raven

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  • 0:01 What Is Alliteration?
  • 0:48 Alliteration in 'The Raven'
  • 3:05 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christina Boggs

Chrissy has taught secondary English and history and writes online curriculum. She has an M.S.Ed. in Social Studies Education.

You're probably familiar with Edgar Allan Poe's 'The Raven,' but how much do you know about his use of alliteration in the poem? This lesson explores the definition of alliteration and how it's used in Poe's famous poem.

What Is Alliteration?

'Bippity boppity boo'
'She sells seashells by the seashore'
'Silly snakes slither slyly'

What do these phrases and sentences have in common? Each one is an alliteration, or a literary device where the same consonant sound is repeated at the beginning of two or more words next to, or close to, each other in a sentence. As a quick refresher, consonants are all of the letters in the alphabet except for A, E, I, O, and U.

You may have noticed that alliterations have a nice rhythm to them, almost like they just roll off of your tongue. While this is one reason that writers use alliteration, they can also be a good way to set the tone or mood of a text, or create humor.

Alliteration in 'The Raven'

Edgar Allan Poe's 'The Raven' includes many examples of alliteration. Alliteration is used throughout the poem to add rhythm to his writing, as well as influence the mood perceived by the reader.

Poe's poem begins:

'Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore -
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping. . .
'

Right at the onset, Poe uses the alliteration 'weak and weary,' two words that have related meanings. Notice how these words both flow together easily when you read them out loud. Immediately after, the narrator of the poem says that he, 'nodded, nearly napping.' This use of alliteration adds to the overall rhythm of the narrator's speech.

As the narrator continues into the second verse, he uses two more alliterations:

'From my books surcease of sorrow - sorrow for the lost Lenore -
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore. . .
'

Use of 'surcease of sorrow - sorrow' and 'rare and radiant' help build the momentum of the narrator's speech. You can almost hear how quickly he's speaking.

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