iPoe Challenge review: The Oblong Box

After the weirdness of the last Poe story I read, it was a pleasure to get back to a more straightforward narrative from Poe in the 1844 published tale, The Oblong Box.

The story follows an unnamed narrator as he takes a sea voyage from South Carolina to New York City aboard a boat called Independence. Excited by the trip, the well-to-do fellow becomes curious of an artist friend’s decision to book three rooms aboard the boat, when two would have been more than sufficient for the artist and his entourage. The narrator’s intrigue only deepens when he discovers that this extra third room is to be occupied by a peculiar oblong box.

In all honesty I’ve got to admit that this tale is, for the most part, a little on the predictable side. From the oblong box’s obvious dimensions I worked out the content almost instantly, yet Poe continues to tease and cajole by sprinkling subtle hints as to what the contents may be. Guess you probably will, but Poe does throw in a couple of unexpected elements, making the tale fresh and wholly satisfying. I wouldn’t say that this is one of Poe’s best stories ever, but it’s certainly one of the most readable (provided you’re used to Poe over flowery prose of course :)).

Rating: ★★★½☆

Notable Quote: The box in question was, as I say, oblong. It was about six feet in length by two and a half in breadth; I observed it attentively, and like to be precise. Now this shape was PECULIAR; and no sooner had I seen it, than I took credit to myself for the accuracy of my guessing. I had reached the conclusion, it will be remembered, that the extra baggage of my friend, the artist, would prove to be pictures, or at least a picture; for I knew he had been for several weeks in conference with Nicolino:—and now here was a box, which, from its shape, COULD possibly contain nothing in the world but a copy of Leonardo’s “Last Supper;” and a copy of this very “Last Supper,” done by Rubini the younger, at Florence, I had known, for some time, to be in the possession of Nicolino. This point, therefore, I considered as sufficiently settled. I chuckled excessively when I thought of my acumen. It was the first time I had ever known Wyatt to keep from me any of his artistical secrets; but here he evidently intended to steal a march upon me, and smuggle a fine picture to New York, under my very nose; expecting me to know nothing of the matter. I resolved to quiz him WELL, now and hereafter.

*This story was read as part of my iPoe Reading Challenge

About Rob

Rob, a self-confessed bibliophile, is without any hope of rehabilitation. He gets unnaturally excited over anything book-shaped, and if book sniffing were a crime then he would have been locked up years ago (which wouldn't bother him in the slightest provided his cell was lined with books).


  1. Even the title on this one gives something away — still good though!

    • Rob (Twitter: robaroundbooks)

      I know Kristen. I mean come on! Is Poe trying to take us all for a fool? 🙂
      Hope you’re well