At the beginning of the poem, the narrator can best be described as mournful of his lover's death, tired from reading, ripe for hallucination.
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The unnamed narrator appears in a typically Gothic setting with a lonely apartment, a dying fire, and a "bleak December" night while wearily studying his books in an attempt to distract himself from his troubles. He thinks occasionally of Lenore but is generally able to control his emotions, although the effort required to do so tires him and makes his words equally slow and outwardly pacified. The unnamed narrator is wearily perusing an old book one bleak December night when he hears a tapping at the door to his room. He tells himself that it is merely a visitor, and he awaits tomorrow because he cannot find release in his sorrow over the death of Lenore. The rustling curtains frighten him, but he decides that it must be some late visitor and, going to the door, he asks for forgiveness from the visitor because he had been napping. However, when he opens the door, he sees and hears nothing except the word "Lenore," an echo of his own words.