Writing on "The Impact of Pompeii on the Literary Imagination," Laurence Goldstein has observed that in the destruction of earlier optimism "during the Age of Revolutions which followed Gibbon . . . Pompeii played an important role, as a social phenomenon and as a metaphor." In particular,
It did so by compelling a personal identification with its victims. Because it was obliterated in the midst of life, Pompeii revealed to the modern world disturbing images of pathetic individuals stopped in recognizable domestic activities by the volcanic ash. Pompeii became a symbolic code word for what Madame de Stael calls "death's abrupt invasion." It fostered a dark literature of premature burial, natural calamity, and universal extinction.
[Centennial Review. 23 (1979): 229.]
Impact of a Discovery on the art and literary genre