Poe's Stories

Pdf fan dd71f526917d6085d66d045bd94fb5b55d02a108dd45d836cbdd4abe2d4c043d Tap here to download this LitChart! (PDF)

Narrator (M.S. Found in a Bottle) Character Analysis

A traveler, voyaging towards exotic islands for purposes of exploration. He is typical of a lot of Poe’s narrators in that he lives a solitary existence, only interacting with his shipmates. But when the seas and skies turn against them, the narrator is well and truly alone, stowed away on a foreign vessel that is so strange and monstrous that its reality seems questionable. On this strange ship, the narrator describes his experiences andtries in vain to communicate – in the end he can make his voice heard only by putting his diary in a bottle and sending it to the elements.

Narrator (M.S. Found in a Bottle) Quotes in Poe's Stories

The Poe's Stories quotes below are all either spoken by Narrator (M.S. Found in a Bottle) or refer to Narrator (M.S. Found in a Bottle). For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Rivals and Doppelgangers Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Classics edition of Poe's Stories published in 2006.
Manuscript Found in a Bottle Quotes

A feeling, for which I have no name, has taken possession of my soul – a sensation which will admit of no analysis, to which the lessons of bygone times are inadequate, and for which I fear futurity itself will offer me no key.

Related Characters: Narrator (M.S. Found in a Bottle) (speaker)
Page Number: 16
Explanation and Analysis:

The narrator of the short story has boarded a mysterious ship. As he spends more time on the ship, he decides to write down everything he experiences there. The narrator can't quite put into words why he chooses to write down his experiences--all he knows is that a strange feeling has taken over his soul. The narrator refuses to think of the past ("bygone days") or look ahead to the future. Instead, he focuses exclusively on the present, and seemingly remains trapped and confused inside his own consciousness.

The narrator's behavior is characteristic of Poe's isolated, introspective narrators, and also of people in crises in general. The narrator doesn't have the luxury of ruminating on the past, nor does he have the time or hopefulness to think of the future. Every ounce of brainpower he has is devoted to survival in the present moment. The narrator's behavior also foreshadows the frightening end of the story, in which he is pulled down into the depths of the ocean. It's precisely because the narrator thinks he's going to die soon that he's written down his experiences--even if he doesn't survive the shipwreck, his notes, preserved in the titular bottle, will.

A+

Unlock explanations and citation info for this and every other Poe's Stories quote.

Plus so much more...

Get LitCharts A+
Already a LitCharts A+ member? Sign in!

The crew glide to and fro like the ghosts of buried centuries; their eyes have an eager and uneasy meaning; and when their fingers fall athwart my path in the wild glare of the battle-lanterns, I feel as I have never felt before, although I have been all my life a dealer in antiquities, and have imbibed the shadows of Allan columns at Balbec, and Tadmor, and Persepolis, until my very soul has become a ruin.

Related Characters: Narrator (M.S. Found in a Bottle) (speaker)
Related Symbols: Eyes
Page Number: 19
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, the narrator of the story meets the crew of his new ship. The crew members are gaunt and intimidating--almost like ghosts. It's also in this passage that we learn that the narrator is a collector of antiques--in other words, the relics of bygone centuries, once owned by people who are now dead. He also describes his own soul as a "ruin," making an important connection between the aging, frightening settings of the Gothic and the psychologies of Poe's characters.

The passage is important because it establishes the macabre mood of the story (and the entire book) by blurring the line between the past and the present. Although the narrator is trying to focus on the here and now, he has a strange sense of being "pulled" into the supernatural; i.e., the world of the dead. Poe will repeat such a dynamic many times in his stories: a lonely, rational narrator will be swallowed up by the sheer bulk of the Gothic world of sinister settings, ghosts, and monsters.

All in the immediate vicinity of the ship is the blackness of eternal night, and a chaos of foamless water; but, about a league on either side of us, may be seen, indistinctly and at intervals, stupendous ramparts of ice, towering away into the desolate sky, and looking like the walls of the universe.

Related Characters: Narrator (M.S. Found in a Bottle) (speaker)
Related Symbols: Architecture
Page Number: 20
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Poe gives us a flavor of his hidden impulses and desires--in other words, what he personally finds frightening. In the story, the narrator is aboard a ship that's slowly being sucked into a whirlpool. And yet all around the ship are huge columns of ice.

It's important to notice the claustrophobia of this scene. Even though the narrator is sailing on the ocean--i.e., a completely open place--he has the strong sense of being boxed in by these massive walls of ice. Confronted by the horror of compression and enclosure, death--or being sucked down by the whirlpool--is almost a relief. (In real life, Poe was terrified of being buried alive, and wrote dozens of stories on the topic. This story is an early sign of Poe's claustrophobia.)

The description of the icy walls is also a good example of the kind of Gothic "architecture" that haunts Poe's stories. Even when nothing directly supernatural or horrifying is happening, the setting itself usually suggests something sinister or beyond human comprehension. These icy columns are reminiscent of the Romantic idea of the "sublime" (an experience, usually in nature, of terror and awe at the vastness of existence), and were perhaps inspirational for the setting of Mary Shelley's classic work of horror and the Romantic: Frankenstein

Get the entire Poe's Stories LitChart as a printable PDF.
Poe s stories.pdf.medium

Narrator (M.S. Found in a Bottle) Character Timeline in Poe's Stories

The timeline below shows where the character Narrator (M.S. Found in a Bottle) appears in Poe's Stories. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Manuscript Found in a Bottle
The Gothic Style Theme Icon
Self, Solitude, and Consciousness Theme Icon
The Power of Memory Theme Icon
The narrator of "Manuscript" begins by describing his background. He is from a wealthy family and has a good... (full context)
Rivals and Doppelgangers Theme Icon
The Dead and the Living Theme Icon
The Gothic Style Theme Icon
Self, Solitude, and Consciousness Theme Icon
The narrator of "Manuscript" spends many years travelling. One day, he took a trip by boat to the Archipelago... (full context)
The Gothic Style Theme Icon
Self, Solitude, and Consciousness Theme Icon
The captain and crew are relaxed but the narrator of "Manuscript" is worried that a storm is coming and can’t sleep. He goes out on deck... (full context)
Rivals and Doppelgangers Theme Icon
The Dead and the Living Theme Icon
The Gothic Style Theme Icon
As the water continues to soar and crash above them, the narrator of "Manuscript" and his shipmate spend five days trying to keep the ship away from the brink... (full context)
Rivals and Doppelgangers Theme Icon
The Dead and the Living Theme Icon
The Gothic Style Theme Icon
...of ocean in front of them, balanced there for a second and then comes down. The narrator of "Manuscript" is thrown onto the deck of the ambushing ship. (full context)
Rivals and Doppelgangers Theme Icon
The Dead and the Living Theme Icon
The Gothic Style Theme Icon
Self, Solitude, and Consciousness Theme Icon
For some reason, the narrator of "Manuscript" doesn’t alert the crew on board this new ship and secretly stows himself in the... (full context)
The Dead and the Living Theme Icon
The Gothic Style Theme Icon
Self, Solitude, and Consciousness Theme Icon
The Power of Memory Theme Icon
The narrator of "Manuscript" tells us that an inexplicable feeling has taken hold of him. Some time has elapsed.... (full context)
The Dead and the Living Theme Icon
The Gothic Style Theme Icon
Self, Solitude, and Consciousness Theme Icon
The rest of the tale is written in installments like a diary. The narrator of "Manuscript" describes a recent outing from his dwelling onto the deck where he finds a loose... (full context)
Rivals and Doppelgangers Theme Icon
The Dead and the Living Theme Icon
The Gothic Style Theme Icon
Self, Solitude, and Consciousness Theme Icon
The narrator of "Manuscript" decides to walk among the crew, but again he goes unnoticed. The men are infirm... (full context)
Rivals and Doppelgangers Theme Icon
The Dead and the Living Theme Icon
The Gothic Style Theme Icon
Self, Solitude, and Consciousness Theme Icon
The narrator of "Manuscript" describes his sighting of the ship’s captain, who is similar to him in height and... (full context)
Rivals and Doppelgangers Theme Icon
The Dead and the Living Theme Icon
The Gothic Style Theme Icon
The ship is surrounded by night and now walls of ice. The narrator of "Manuscript" admits he was silly to be afraid of the rough sea previously, as all of... (full context)
The Dead and the Living Theme Icon
The Gothic Style Theme Icon
Self, Solitude, and Consciousness Theme Icon
...ice around them opens and the ship is being pulled in to the icy current. The narrator of "Manuscript" knows this is it. They are plunging into the whirlpool. He narrates as they go,... (full context)