The Oblong Box By Edgar Allan Poe

A treasure chest similar to the oblong box by Edgar Allan Poe

Disclosing Secrets Behind The Tragedy Of The Oblong Box By Edgar Allan Poe


The short story The Oblong Box Edgar Allan Poe delves into the realms of secrecy, obsession, and the tragic consequences of curiosity spiraling into unchecked fixation. This article seeks to dissect the thematic elements of secrecy and tragedy within the narrative, exploring how Poe masterfully crafts a tale that exposes the human propensity for obsession and its perilous outcomes. Edgar Allan Poe aims to unveil the nuanced layers behind the enigmatic oblong box and its tragic implications through a detailed analysis of character motivations, narrative structure, and literary devices.


Edgar Allan Poe, renowned for his macabre storytelling, crafted The Oblong Box as a narrative that delves deep into the human psyche, unraveling the intricate web of secrecy and obsession. The story’s premise revolves around a mysterious box aboard a ship, shrouded in secrecy, inviting an insatiable curiosity that leads to tragic consequences. As readers embark on this journey, they are confronted with the themes of secrecy, obsession, and the unforeseen tragedy that unfolds, highlighting the dangers of unearthing hidden truths without regard for the potential ramifications.

Exploring Themes of Secrecy In The Oblong Box By Edgar Allan Poe

Poe employs the theme of secrecy as a catalyst for intrigue, manipulating the characters’ desires to unravel the enigma of the strange oblong box. The author strategically uses ambiguity and withheld information to amplify the allure of the box, stimulating the characters’ obsession to uncover its contents. The secretive nature of the box becomes a symbol of the unknown, enticing characters and readers alike to speculate and theorize, creating an atmosphere ripe with tension and anticipation.

The Destructive Nature of Obsession

Within the narrative, Poe skillfully portrays the characters’ descent into obsession, showcasing how their relentless pursuit of the box’s secrets leads to their downfall. As curiosity evolves into fixation, characters become consumed by their desire to unveil the truth, disregarding ethical considerations and displaying an insatiable thirst for knowledge. This unchecked obsession overwhelms them with the potential consequences, ultimately resulting in tragic outcomes that reverberate throughout the story.

Tragedy Unveiled

The climax of The Oblong Box unravels the tragic reality concealed within the mysterious container. Poe ingeniously subverts the readers’ expectations, revealing a devastating truth that starkly contrasts with the characters’ conjectures. The revelation serves as a sobering reminder of the consequences of unchecked curiosity and obsession, delivering a poignant and impactful conclusion that resonates beyond the confines of the narrative.

Symbolism In The Oblong Box By Edgar Allan Poe

In Edgar Allan Poe’s The Oblong Box, the titular oblong box serves as a significant symbol that represents various themes and concepts within the narrative:

  1. Mystery and Secrecy: The box embodies an aura of mystery and secrecy throughout the story. Many factors, such as the oblong shape, concealed contents, and the secrecy surrounding it, provoke curiosity and intrigue among the characters and readers alike. The mysterious box and its secrecy are an allegory of the allure of the unknown and the human tendency to become fixated on unraveling hidden truths.
  2. Obsession and Curiosity: As the characters aboard the ship become increasingly obsessed with uncovering the box’s contents, it symbolizes the dangers of uncontrolled curiosity and obsession. The box becomes a focal point for their relentless pursuit of knowledge, highlighting the destructive consequences of unchecked curiosity.
  3. Moral Ambiguity and Ethical Dilemma: The oblong box also represents a moral dilemma. The characters’ relentless desire to uncover their secrets raises ethical questions about the boundaries of curiosity and the implications of prying into others’ privacy. It symbolizes the moral ambiguity associated with pursuing hidden truths without considering the potential consequences.
  4. Foreshadowing Tragedy: The box symbolizes foreshadowing, hinting at the tragic outcome awaiting those consumed by their obsession. Its presence on the ship subtly hints at impending disaster, building suspense and anticipation as the story progresses.
  5. Deception and Appearance vs. Reality: The box’s physical appearance hides its contents’ truth, symbolizing appearances’ deceptive nature. This theme emphasizes that things may not always be what they seem, cautioning against making assumptions based solely on external appearances.

Overall, The Oblong Box in Poe’s narrative serves as a multifaceted symbol that encapsulates themes of mystery, obsession, moral ambiguity, foreshadowing, and the dichotomy between appearances and reality, contributing significantly to the story’s depth and impact.

The Allegory Of The Shape Of The Oblong Box by Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe’s The Oblong Box employs the oblong shape of the box as an allegorical element, which adds depth to the story’s themes and symbolism:

  1. Symbol of Death and Mortality: The oblong shape of the box, reminiscent of a coffin or casket, serves as a subtle allegory for death and mortality. Its form hints at the impending tragedy and foreshadows the grim outcome awaiting the characters fixated on unraveling its secrets. In its oblong shape, the box becomes a vessel symbolizing the inevitability of mortality and the tragic consequences of unchecked curiosity.
  2. Representation of Hidden Truths and Secrets: Beyond its physical shape, the oblong box becomes an allegory for the hidden truths and secrets humans often seek to unveil. Its concealed contents symbolize the elusive nature of truth and the human desire to unearth concealed information, reflecting how curiosity can lead to obsession and, ultimately, tragic outcomes.
  3. Metaphor for Moral Ambiguity and Ethical Dilemma: The oblong shape of the box also serves as an allegory for moral ambiguity and ethical dilemmas. It signifies the ambiguity surrounding the characters’ pursuit of hidden truths, emphasizing the ethical quandary associated with invading privacy and prying into secrets that may have dire consequences.
  4. Foreshadowing and Symbol of Impending Tragedy: The oblong shape of the box acts as a foreshadowing element, hinting at the impending tragedy that looms over the characters. Its form becomes a foreboding symbol, subtly signaling the disastrous consequences that will unfold due to the characters’ relentless pursuit of its contents.

By utilizing the oblong shape of the box as an allegorical element, Poe infuses deeper layers of meaning into the narrative. The shape becomes more than a mere physical description, transcending into a symbol that embodies themes of mortality, hidden truths, ethical dilemmas, and the ominous foreshadowing of tragic outcomes resulting from unchecked curiosity and obsession.

The Story Of Love And Death Of The Oblong Box by Edgar Allan Poe

In The Oblong Box by Edgar Allan Poe, the intertwined themes of love and death play a subtle yet significant role in shaping the narrative’s undertones:

  1. Love and Devotion: The story subtly hints at the theme of love through the relationship between the newlywed couple, Cornelius Wyatt and his wife. Their affectionate bond and the husband’s protective nature toward his wife are evident as they embark on the sea voyage. This love is symbolized by the special attention and care Cornelius gives to safeguarding what appears to be his wife’s oblong coffin-shaped box, showcasing his devotion to her.
  2. Tragic Consequences and Death: Amidst the elements of love, Poe intertwines the theme of death, which looms ominously throughout the story. The passengers’ obsession with the oblong box and the relentless pursuit of its secrets lead to tragic consequences. The tale takes a dark turn as the true nature of the box’s contents is unveiled, revealing not the wife’s coffin, as assumed, but a different and tragic reality.
  3. The Intersection of Love and Tragedy: The story juxtaposes love and death’s inevitable presence. While love is present in the form of marital devotion and care, the narrative ultimately confronts the characters and readers with the grim reality of mortality and the unforeseen tragic outcome that stems from unchecked curiosity and obsession.
  4. Loss and Grief: The revelation within the oblong box leads to profound loss and grief. Through its exploration of love and death, the narrative delves into the emotional turmoil caused by the unforeseen tragedy. The story portrays the devastating impact of losing a loved one, highlighting the anguish resulting from the characters’ relentless pursuit of the box’s secrets.

In summary, The Oblong Box weaves together themes of love and death, showcasing the fragility of human emotions and the tragic consequences of the collision of obsessive curiosity with the reality of mortality. Poe’s narrative skillfully entwines these themes, painting a poignant picture of devotion, loss, and the grim realities that accompany unchecked curiosity and obsession.

The Message Behind The Oblong Box By Edgar Allan Poe

In his horror novel The Oblong Box, Edgar Allan Poe warns about the dangers of unchecked curiosity and obsession and the consequences of prying into hidden secrets without considering the potential ramifications. The story serves as a moral allegory, imparting several key messages:

  1. The Perils of Unbridled Curiosity: Poe warns about the hazards of uncontrolled curiosity. The characters’ relentless pursuit of discovering the contents of the oblong box symbolizes the human tendency to become fixated on uncovering secrets, disregarding ethical boundaries and consequences.
  2. Obsession’s Destructive Nature: The narrative highlights the destructive power of obsession. Characters become consumed by their desire to unveil the box’s secrets, leading to tragic outcomes. Poe cautions against allowing obsession to blind individuals to the potential harm their pursuits may cause.
  3. Moral Ambiguity and Ethical Considerations: Through the story, Poe prompts reflection on ethical dilemmas. He emphasizes the moral ambiguity associated with invading privacy and prying into secrets. The narrative encourages readers to consider the ethical implications of their actions and the potential fallout of probing into hidden truths.
  4. Tragic Consequences of Unchecked Actions: Ultimately, the story unveils the grim consequences of unchecked curiosity and obsession. Poe underscores the potential for catastrophic outcomes when individuals pursue their desires without considering the impact on themselves and others.

In essence, Poe’s message in The Oblong Box revolves around the dangers of obsession, the ethical dilemmas associated with uncovering hidden truths, and the devastating repercussions that can arise from the relentless pursuit of curiosity. The narrative serves as a cautionary tale, urging readers to consider their actions’ ethical and moral implications and to exercise restraint when driven by insatiable curiosity.

The Metaphor Of The Numbers And Colors In The Oblong Box by Edgar Allan Poe

In The Oblong Box by Edgar Allan Poe, numbers and colors serve as subtle yet significant metaphors that contribute to the story’s atmosphere and themes:

  1. Numbers as Symbols of Mystery and Intrigue: Throughout the narrative, Poe strategically incorporates references to numbers, such as the stateroom number 105 and the number of days at sea. These numerical references contribute to the mysterious atmosphere surrounding the oblong box, adding a sense of intrigue and suspense. They symbolize the meticulous attention to detail in the narrative, emphasizing the precision and methodical nature of the characters’ obsession with unraveling the box’s secrets.
  2. Colors as Evocative Imagery and Symbolism: Poe employs vivid descriptions of colors to create visual imagery and symbolic associations. The story mentions the colors white, black, and red, which hold symbolic significance. White may symbolize purity or innocence, black often signifies death or mystery, and red can evoke various emotions, from passion to danger. These colors subtly contribute to the underlying themes of love, death, and the hidden truth concealed within the oblong box. Additionally, colors serve as cues for readers to interpret the evolving mood and symbolism throughout the narrative.
  3. Symbolism of the Number and Color of the Box: Beyond its physical appearance, the oblong box itself may carry symbolic meaning through its numbers and colors. The number of the box and its associated colors might represent hidden layers of meaning or thematic significance, inviting readers to contemplate their symbolic implications within the context of the story’s themes of obsession, love, and tragedy.

While Poe’s usage of numbers and colors in The Oblong Box remains subtle and open to interpretation, they contribute to the story’s atmosphere, enhance its imagery, and potentially carry symbolic undertones that deepen the thematic exploration of secrecy, obsession, and the consequences of unchecked curiosity.

The Settings Represented In The Oblong Box Novel

In Edgar Allan Poe’s The Oblong Box, the settings play an important part in establishing the narrative’s mood, atmosphere, and thematic elements. The story encompasses various settings that contribute to the overall tone:

  1. The Ship: The story’s primary setting is a sea voyage aboard a ship. This confined and isolated environment creates a sense of claustrophobia and intensifies the tension among the characters. The ship becomes a microcosm where the passengers’ curiosity, obsession, and interactions drive the plot. It symbolizes the enclosed world where the narrative drama unfolds, adding to the suspense and anticipation surrounding the mysterious oblong box.
  2. The Staterooms: Within the ship, the staterooms, particularly Room 105, serve as focal points for the characters’ interactions and the unfolding events. Room 105 symbolizes secrecy and intrigue, as it houses the enigmatic oblong box, triggering the passengers’ curiosity and obsession.
  3. The Ocean: The vast expanse of the ocean represents both a physical and metaphorical backdrop. It symbolizes the unknown and the unpredictability of life. The characters’ journey across the sea parallels their journey into the unknown secrets concealed within the oblong box. The ocean’s immensity and mystery heighten the sense of foreboding and uncertainty.
  4. Various Locations Onboard: Apart from the staterooms, the story briefly describes other locations on the ship, such as the deck and the interactions among passengers in different areas. These settings contribute to the development of the characters’ relationships, the escalation of tensions, and the gradual unraveling of the mystery surrounding the oblong box.

Overall, The Oblong Box’s settings create a sense of confinement, heighten suspense, and underscore the themes of secrecy, obsession, and the dangers of unchecked curiosity. Poe strategically uses these settings to enhance the narrative’s atmosphere and to drive the story toward its tragic conclusion.


Edgar Allan Poe’s The Oblong Box is a cautioning tale, intricately weaving themes of secrecy, obsession, and tragedy to underscore the perils of unearthing hidden truths without restraint. Through a nuanced exploration of character motivations and the narrative’s construction, Poe exposes the human propensity for curiosity and obsession, emphasizing the catastrophic outcomes that can result from such unchecked pursuits. The story’s enduring relevance lies in its portrayal of the fragile boundaries between curiosity and obsession, leaving an indelible mark on the reader’s consciousness.

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments