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Themes

Zombie sailors. Gigantic whirlpools. Horrifying hurricanes. If this doesn't get you quaking in your boots, we don't know what will. Well, maybe the greatest fear of all—the unknown. That's just what our narrator faces down in "MS. Found in a Bottle." He spends most of the story completely helpless in the face of vast, impersonal forces of nature, and at the end he disappears entirely, winding up goodness-knows-where. The only thing we know for sure is that this guy's never coming back.

Questions About Fear

  1. Is the narrator being punished by going to sea? If so, what is he being punished for?
  2. What changes after the crew of the narrator's ship is washed overboard? How does Poe's writing reflect that change?
  3. Why doesn't the narrator initially present himself to the men on the black ship? What does he think will happen if he does?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

The scariest thing of all here is that nature itself seems out to get him. This guy's definitely being punished, but for what, who knows?

The narrator's unknown fate is not the scariest part here. The fact that these death-seeking zombie sailors don't acknowledge him is even scarier. After all, what's more terrifying than becoming completely invisible?

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