The Great Balloon Hoax Close Reading

“THE GREAT problem is at length solved! The air, as well as the earth and the ocean, has been subdued by science and will become a common and convenient highway for mankind.”

Poe does an excellent job of creating an effective hoax that draws in his readers with a breaking news story right from the start. He places this sentence near the beginning in order to set up the subject that will be discussed and draw in his audience in anticipation. He does so by starting off with “THE GREAT problem…” which is a vague statement that leaves readers wondering what the problem is and how it has been solved. He continues to build suspense by describing how the “…air…earth and the ocean…” have been overcome by this creation which makes it appear as though these daunting and grand natural elements of the world have been conquered by a man-made creation. Then, most importantly he claims that “science” was responsible for such an accomplishment, however science is an extremely unclear word that doesn’t necessarily explain how this task was executed at all. Most importantly, Poe finishes by saying the invention has created a “common” and “convenient highway” for people to use which implies the creation will be so easily replicated that it can place human civilization high above the limitations of natural elements.

From looking at this one sentence, the theme of scientific exploration and creation has already entered the picture, as well as the idea that mankind’s creations will be able to overcome the forces of the natural world. This idea is re-emphasized throughout the story as Poe inserts multiple specific measurements and details in his own description of the hot air balloon as well as the primary recounts from the scientists themselves. For example, he describes the balloon as “an ellipsoid” and includes numbers from the exact lengths of the structure. His use of such jargon makes the whole piece seem more scientific and authentic. Lastly, he claims this task to be the “most stupendous, most interesting and most important” accomplishment of mankind to conclude the entire story.

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One Response to The Great Balloon Hoax Close Reading

  1. Lindsey Grubbs says:

    Really nice work here, Kristi! You pull good details from the text and are able to tie them to bigger picture questions in the story as a whole. I think most of the text of this blog could be pulled into your paper when you start to write it–good close readings are at the core of this assignment!

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