Review: “The Premature Burial” by Edgar Allan Poe

The Premature Burial is different from other horror stories by Edgar Allan Poe.  Most of his plots rely on some visible terror or oncoming threat, gore and violence splashed across every page and predatory word.  However, this particular creation is based more on actual events, as the author himself notes in his introduction.  The fact is that during the course of history many people were buried alive, either by accident or on purpose.  Some maintained the appearance of death while in a deceptive coma, but the rest of these odd occurrences had no visible explanation behind them.

In this case, Poe’s main character wakes up to find himself buried in a coffin deep in the ground.  Screaming and beating against the coffin lid does not help, and soon claustrophobia builds as he realizes how desperate and hopeless his situation is.  The Premature Burial is like a plunge into unforeseen circumstances; the entire story depends not on some bloody apparition or treacherous character but on the bizarre surroundings and inexplicable condition the character is in.  The most frightening element of The Premature Burial is how easily one may end up in such a position without having any idea how he/she has gotten there, considering how dependent humans are on each other and how exposed they are to chain reactions.

Also, the author uses the character’s helplessness to demonstrate that being buried several feet underground is grounded cause for panic, unlike some fears based on pure superstition.  Unless a person buried alive is immediately freed from this tight prison, he/she will die from either asphyxia or an extreme state of shock.  A word of warning: do not underestimate The Premature Burial, because such a tragedy could happen to anyone when death is not the final stage.

Original review: Part 3: One story a day for Halloween,


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