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Themes

One of the many problems with being imprisoned in a dungeon is the lack of society. It's easy to lose perspective when you don't have anyone to talk to. In "Prisoner of Chillon," our prisoner doesn't start out alone – he is thrown into prison initially with his two brothers. But after they die, he stops counting the days and just paces around his cell. His mental stagnation is a result of his extreme isolation.

Questions About Isolation

  1. How does the speaker's mental state change after his youngest brother dies?
  2. Why does the speaker feel that his brothers' voices don't sound like they used to (lines 67-68)?
  3. Why does chatting with his brothers not seem as cheering after a while (line 62)?
  4. Why does the speaker feel that he is responsible for keeping his brothers' spirits up? How might this sense of responsibility change after his brothers have died?
  5. Why is the speaker happy that he doesn't have any surviving family (line 327)?
  6. What is the significance of the island the speaker sees in the lake (lines 341-350)?

Chew on This

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

The speaker has to turn away from the view of the island he sees from his grate because the isolation of the island, which is even smaller than the area of his dungeon, cruelly reminds him of the extremity of his isolation.

Because of his extreme isolation, the speaker eventually learns to "love" his imprisonment the way a hermit loves his "hermitage" (lines 374 and 378).

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