As Poe sets the scene for the December night on which the reader finds the narrator nodding off over his book of “forgotten lore,” he leans heavily on the visual imagery of darkness and the aural imagery of silence to establish the gloomy—“dreary”—mood of the story:
—here I opened wide the door;
Darkness there and nothing more.
Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering,
doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word,
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, “Lenore!”—
Merely this and nothing more.
The loneliness of the narrator—loneliness driven by his grief for the departed Lenore—is a central theme of “The Raven” and a key component of the Gothic mood. Poe uses the imagery of night’s darkness to establish this mood, further driving it home with the use of the aural imagery of silence and stillness and the whisper of “Lenore.” Evocative, onomatopoeic verbs like “whisper” and “murmur” further impress the reader with this sense of stillness, and forceful alliteration (“deep into that darkness peering[…] doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream[…]”) drives it home.
Throughout “The Raven,” the narrator uses biblical language and imagery, primarily to refer to Lenore. The first time the narrator’s lost love is introduced, he refers to her in terms of her relationship to angels:
Eagerly I wished the morrow;—vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow—sorrow for the lost Lenore—
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore—
From this point on, the narrator associates Lenore with a Christian afterlife, angels, and biblical allusion. He even claims to sense—or, perhaps, hallucinates—the presence of angels in his own chamber, taunting him with thoughts of Lenore:
Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.
Combining the olfactory imagery of some supernatural “perfume” with the auditory imagery of angelic footfalls—Seraphim are angels in the Judeo-Christian tradition—Poe thus amplifies the narrator’s grief-ridden obsession with Lenore by placing it right before his very nose and ears.
Shortly thereafter, the narrator demands to know more about Lenore’s fate in the afterlife:
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore—
"Aidenn" is another spelling of Eden, the biblical paradise that God creates in the opening chapters of Genesis. As Poe uses it here, "Aidenn" refers to a heavenly afterlife more generally. The narrator is therefore demanding to know if "this soul" (the narrator himself) will someday be reunited with Lenore in heaven, where that "sainted maiden" surely belongs. By surrounding the narrator’s thoughts and questions about Lenore with biblical allusion, Poe thus distinguishes the fate of the narrator’s lover from the narrator himself, who perceives his own world largely through terms of classical mythological allusion. By associating Lenore with the heavens, the narrator simultaneously exalts his lover and emphasizes his own bleak, foreboding surroundings, making the distance between them all the more stark.