SOME WORDS WITH A MUMMY
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Edgar Allan Poe's short story "Some Words With a Mummy" was published in April, 1845 in American Review: A Whig Journal. The satirical story skewers the then craze for all things Egyptian and mummies and also satirizes the thought that contemporary civilization had reached the pinnacle of both scientific thought and artistic accomplishment in things like architecture.
Poe is clearly poking fun at Egyptmania in this story. In the story a group of men gather together in the middle of the night to examine a mummy for the sake of "scientific discovery". During their examination they act like a group of children that just got a new toy. They poke and prod the mummy just to see what happens, this is evident when they decide to use electricity. The fact that this is going on at the Doctor's private residence and is attended by his friends only, even though they do not have any kind of medical expertise denotes this fact. Although it seems, in modern times, counterproductive to conduct a serious scientific examination in a party like atmosphere, this was commonly done at the time, a fact that Poe is ridiculing here. The mummy is also a method of ridicule here, right down to its name, Allamistakeo. Unlike serious mummy horror stories, the mummy is not scary, and the characters do not react to it as such. It is another device that Poe uses to censure the reader. Upon its resurrection, the mummy chastises the men for their abuse of himself and mummies in general.
In their discussion with Allamistakeo, the men attempt to exalt their time as one of unprecedented knowledge and technology. Again and again, Allamistakeo is able to prove that the technology in his time was not inferior, and often superior, to the modern equivalents. The narrator, who at first is presented as an intelligent, educated man, is later revealed to be completely ignorant. He asks Allamistakeo a series of questions intended to prove that modern technology is superior and each time he asks questions that, ultimately, support Allamistakeo's argument. Even when one of the men tries to stop him and suggests that he consult historical texts before asking his questions, he continues. When the man mentions Ptolemy, the narrators response is "whoever Ptolemy is". In the end, the only reason the men can consider themselves the victors of the debate comes down to cough drops.
At the end of the story, the narrator, exasperated, is keen to have himself embalmed for a couple of hundred years to wake up to find out who the President of the United States will be.
Publication history: In January 1845, Columbian Magazine listed "Some Words with a Mummy" as scheduled for publication; Poe likely pulled the article when he was offered more money for it elsewhere. It was ultimately published in the April 1845 edition of the American Review, which also included Poe's revised poems "The Valley of Unrest" and "The City in the Sea". The story was republished without changes shortly after in the November 1, 1845, issue of the Broadway Journal.
Post-production: Drat Productions, Baltimore. The story is narrated by Mark Redfield. - Abridged
Copyright Mark Redfield/Damfino Media. All Rights Reserved.