The Premature Burial

This study guide will help you analyze the short story “The Premature Burial” (1844) by Edgar Allan Poe. You can also find a summary of the text, as well as inspiration for interpreting it and putting it into perspective

Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) was an American writer and poet famous for his imaginative and descriptive horror stories which redefined the genre. His story “The Premature Burial” was first published in The Philadelphia Dollar Newspaper. 


Here, you can read an extract from our study guide: 


The narrator uses the following sentence to describe his gradual awakening from his sudden trances: “Just as the day dawns to the friendless and houseless beggar who roams the streets throughout the long desolate winter night – just so tardily – just so wearily – just so cheerily came back the light of the Soul to me.” The simile touches on several aspects: that the awakening is too slow, that he is left exhausted after such an attack, and that he is relieved to be finally restored to full consciousness. The comparison with a beggar also highlights that the narrator sees himself as very unfortunate and pities himself.

The narrator describes the terror he feels during night-time: “When the grim Darkness overspread the Earth, then, with every horror of thought, I shook – shook as the quivering plumes upon the hearse”. The simile brings to mind the image of death through the mention of the hearse. The plumes refer to the ostrich feathers which the rich families used to hang on hearses in the 19th century.

The narrator believes that even though his fears are not entirely unjustified, “like the Demons in whose company Afrasiab made his voyage down the Oxus, they must sleep, or they will devour us”. This simile is a reference to a Persian epic in which the king Afrasiab sailed down the Oxus River in a ship full of sleeping demons. The meaning of the simile is that people must avoid indulging in thoughts which cause them suffering, especially when they cannot change anything. 

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The Premature Burial

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