Poe's Short Stories

The Man of the Crowd

The very first lines of Poe's "The Man of the Crowd" imply that this is a secretive story by nature, for Poe suggests that this particular narrative may not "permit itself to be read" (p.1561). The story itself takes on a responsibility independent of that of the author, for it is the story itself that must compel a reader to find reason in its foundation. This story is much like the "secrets which do not permit themselves to be told" (p.1561), for like the bearers of these secrets--- the men who die "nightly... on account of the hideousness of mysteries which will not suffer themselves to be revealed" (p.1561) --- the author, Poe, does not have the capacity to liberate that which does not want to be liberated. Consequently, the reliability of the narrator comes into question, for the line separating the seemingly sane narrator, and the suspiciously insane man being followed, becomes vague when both are literally elbow to elbow, retracing each other's own recycled steps again and again. Through careful analysis of the narrator's somewhat clinical observations, the reader is able to decipher his actions, for like the followed man, he is wracked with despair and has a "mad...

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