3.05_English.docx - Part A In the short story \u201cA Premature Burial\u201d Edgar Allen Poe explores the theme of how our deepest fears can consume our lives

3.05_English.docx - Part A In the short story u201cA...

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Part A: In the short story “A Premature Burial”, Edgar Allen Poe explores the theme of how our deepest fears can consume our lives, even when they are entirely our own creation; only by facing those fears directly can we overcome them. The narrator of the story is obsessed with a fear of being buried alive, and at the beginning of the narrative Poe makes us empathize with this fear. We are given various accounts of historical examples of live burials, and the narrator then describes his catalepsy--a disease which subjects him to falling into death-like trances. What could be more rational than the fear that one might be mistaken as dead when in such a state and mistakenly buried (especially when such occurrences have apparently happened before)? Poe's use of imagery makes the reader really experience the narrator’s fears in the most vivid way, the terror that might come from actually being buried alive: “the suffocating fumes from the damp earth”, “the rigid embrace of the narrow house“, “the blackness of the absolute Night” and “the silence like a sea that overwhelms.” When the narrator believes that he actually has been buried alive, nothing seems more natural; the tightly enclosed space and the smell of earth seem to confirm what the reader has been expecting all along. He must have had a cataleptic attack while in the company of people who were unfamiliar with his malady. Once we, along with the narrator, realize that there is a simple explanation, that he is just sleeping in an unfamiliar environment, we experience a similar sense of relief. Suddenly, his previous obsession with the prospect of being buried alive seems excessive; we recall that he himself admitted that his “mortal terror would listen to no reason.” The narrator too is freed from these fears, which now appear irrational; not only does his life no longer revolve around his fear, but even his cataleptic symptoms themselves disappear. As he admits, perhaps his fears “had been less the consequence than the cause” of his illness. His fear of premature burial (and perhaps death in general) had been so great that they induced a physical ailment. Only by being forced to face his greatest fear in such a direct way could he overcome that fear and live a full life free from an obsession with death. Poe, by making us experience the narrator’s fears and transformation so vividly forces us to reflect on how our own fears might inhibit our lives in a similar--if less extreme--way. Part B: I have a friend who used to be terribly afraid of public speaking. Although somewhat shy in general, she was reasonably comfortable speaking in small groups. Speaking in front of a larger group, however, was a source of irrational terror, to be avoided at all costs, not unlike the narrator of “The Premature Burial”’s fear of being buried alive. While perhaps not such an ever present fear for her, when something resembling such a situation
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arose, her nerves too “became thoroughly unstrung.” Giving a presentation
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