3.05 Reading Journal
the Premature Burial, by Edgar Allen Poe, the author speaks of his terror upon being
buried while not dead. The theme of overwhelming terror and the way it alters
one mentally is used to show the narrator as he is swallowed up by his dread of
being buried alive. The narrator is afflicted with catalepsy, which is a
nervous condition that inflicts a trance or seizure with a loss of
sensation and consciousness accompanied by rigidity of the body. The narrator internally fears that his paralyzed
body will be falsely misconstrued as dead. This can be seen by how it is said
that “No event is so terribly well adapted to inspire the supremeness of
bodily and mental distress, as is burial before death.” the narrator includes
similar incidences to show the severity and commonality of being buried alive.
For, in the time that Poe lived a fairly large number of people were buried
alive. The narrator overcomes his incapacitating catalepsy and anxiety through
revelation. As seen in the events from this piece, one can deduce that fear is
a part of one’s emotion that can take control of you.
The theme in Edgar Allen
Poe’s short story is similar to something I have experienced. A few years ago,
I had volunteered to give a speech for one of my classes, however, I was not prepared
for the countless judging stares from the other students. I was overcome with
an overwhelming sense of dread. I froze up. I couldn’t speak. I just stood
there looking like a fish with its mouth open as terror rushed over me. Eventually
a teacher took notice and, taking pity on me, pulled me through the speech. For
months afterward, I was deathly afraid of any attention on me, including looking,
playing, and talking with others. Although, being the outgoing person I am
today, I eventually regained my confidence. This is similar to Poe’s theme in
“Premature Burial” because the narrator has a crippling fear, but eventually
overcomes it through rationalization and acceptance.
1. Poe describes the sensations of being buried alive.
What imagery does Poe use to help you hear, see, smell, and feel?
Poe uses descriptive imagery to represent
the emotions one would feel upon being buried alive. Such as “the suffocating
fumes from the damp earth.”
suffers from catalepsy, a physical condition in which the individual cannot
move or speak for hours or, in extreme cases, for months. According to the
narrator’s explanation, what are some of the ways that one can tell a
cataleptic is still living?
As seen in the narrator’s explanation, you
can see that one who is a cataleptic would still be alive because they can feel
their heartbeat and warm skin.
does the narrator use describing his return to consciousness? What does the
narrator suggest by using this simile and subsequent description?
tortoise—approached the faint gray dawn of the day” These words demonstrate the
narrator’s awakening to the slowly forthcoming day. By linking his awakening to
that of a tortoise, the narrator suggests that he slowly regained consciousness.
narrator experiences fear, what techniques does Poe use to create suspense for
The technique Poe uses to create suspense
is the utilization of vivid descriptive imagery and the usage of punctuation to
speed the reader’s pace.
happening to the narrator here? Use evidence from the text to support your
came an icy hand upon my forehead, and an impatient, gibbering voice whispered
the word “Arise!” within my ear.” Here, the narrator is awakened
by a strange person.
describes one of his dreams. What happens and what is the significance?
In his dreams, the
narrator describes a stranger who wakes up Poe and leads leads him to a group
of graves. This is important because it shows the narrators future imminent
7. How would you describe the narrator’s mental state?
Are his actions rational?
I would describe the
narrator’s mental state as fearful. He
is desperately trying to avoid a premature burial. His actions are rational at
his age many people are buried prematurely.
What techniques does Poe use in the second
paragraph to build suspense? What is the effect on you, the reader?
The techniques that Poe
uses in the second paragraph to build suspense is the application of quick
paced sentence structure and a lot of punctuation.
Based on the
descriptions here, what has happened to the narrator?
The descriptions show
that the narrator feels helpless and powerless. He attempts to escape but to no
10. How does changing sentence structure from long to
short and choppy help build suspense? What emotions do you feel as you read?
Short and choppy
sentences create suspense by changing the speed at which the reader reads the
line. This creates an eagerness to continue that builds excitement.
11. What has happened? If you were the narrator, what
would you feel hearing these voices?
If I were the narrator when
he heard foreign voices, then I would feel helpless and scared. Although there
is a chance of escape.
12. The narrator explains how the circumstances of his
night aboard the boat paralleled the circumstances of his worst fears. What are
the similarities that he experiences?
The comparison that
Poe finds is that wakening up on the boat reflects his worst fear of being helpless,
forgotten and buried underground. He believes that he is in a grave, which
relates to his biggest fear —being buried alive.
13. The narrator undergoes a major change. What did the
narrator do in light of his experience on the sailboat? Do you think his
reaction is a typical one of someone facing their fears?
The narrator has changed
his opinion of fear. He now views it as an inedibility and decides to accept
14. Think about the meaning of the last sentence. What
is Poe saying in these final lines of his story?
Poe uses the final lines
of his story to show how one can conquer fear with a positive attitude as is shown
in this quote. “but the imagination of man is
no innocent, exploring its every cavern is not without risk. Alas! the grim
legion of deathly terrors cannot be regarded as altogether fanciful—but, they
must sleep, or they will devour us—they must be suffered to slumber, or we