Arthur Gordon Pym, the narrator of his tale of a sea expedition gone terribly awry, is a young man from a respectable background who has a rather melancholy disposition. He becomes interested in the sea and is stowed away on a ship by his friend Augustus, whose father is the captain of the voyage. Pym experiences many terrible things during his journey - near interment in the ship's hold, madness, shipwreck, cannibalism, starvation, an encounter with vicious natives, and a surreal journey to the unexplored South Pole. He is both a passive character - things seem to happen to him - as well as an individual who keeps his wits when others succumb to their mental and/or physical problems. He vacillates between despair and hope. It is revealed at the end of the work by Poe, the editor, that Pym made it home safely from his travels but died in an unforeseen manner before he could provide Poe with the last portion of the narrative.
The son of Captain Barnard and closest friend of Pym. Augustus grows up on the sea and inspires Pym with his fantastical tales. He sneaks Pym aboard the Grampus and is unfortunately caught up in the ship's mutiny. He is wounded in the attack made by himself, Pym, and Peters to take back the ship; he later dies of his wounds as well as starvation and exposure. Augustus is energetic, amiable, and intelligent.
Augustus's father and captain of the Grampus. A personal grievance of the mate leads to a mutiny and the Captain is cast asea on a small boat. He is not heard from again.
This venerable gentleman, not given a proper name in the text, is a successful lawyer. His objections to Pym's desire to go to sea leads to Pym's sneaking aboard the Grampus.
The son of a Native American woman and a fur-trader, Peters is short, strong, and fierce. He has an animated face and wears a wig of any hair-like material he can find. He possesses equanimity of temperament as well as discernment and intelligence. He is responsible for taking back the Grampus and keeping the men alive through their misadventures. Later on the island of Tsalal he saves Pym's life. Peters is a spiritual, cerebral figure even though he has brute strength.
The black cook of the Grampus who helps lead the mutiny. He prefers to go on a whaling mission rather than resort to piracy. He is influential and, as described by Augustus, is a "perfect demon".
The mate of the Grampus, whose personal vendetta against Captain Barnard leads to the ill-fated mutiny. He prefers to take the vessel on a piratical journey and tries to win others to his idea. Violent and immoral, he possibly poisons Hartman Rogers. He is literally frightened to death when he sees Pym dressed up as Rogers's corpse.
A mutineer who dies of violent bodily spasms; Dirk Peters speculates that he was poisoned. Pym dresses up as Rogers's corpse to frighten the remaining men.
A mutineer. Peters throws him overboard at the onset of the re-takeover of the brig.
One of the mutineers, his life is spared by Peters, Pym, and Augustus when they take back the ship. He proves an able and hardworking companion but soon despairs at their perilous shipwrecked condition. It is his idea to resort to cannibalism by drawing straws and having one man give up his life for the others, but unfortunately he is the one who draws the short straw.
The captain of the Jane Guy who rescues Pym and Peters. Guy is sophisticated but weak in physical frame. He leads the Jane Guy through many explorations in the South Seas and near the South Pole.
The chief mate of the Jane Guy.
A crew member of the Jane Guy. He follows Pym and Peters into the fissure on Tsalal, where he is killed.
The chief of the natives on Tsalal, Too-wit appears to be friendly, excitable, and trustworthy. He has a profound fear of anything white. He and the other natives prove themselves duplicitous and work intently on a plan to destroy the men of the Jane Guy.
The captive native taken by Peters and Pym when they escape the island of Tsalal. Nu-Nu is highly superstitious regarding anything white and eventually dies from fright in the South Pole because of the terrifying white environs.
Pym's beloved and faithful dog.
The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
Study Guide for The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket
The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket study guide contains a biography of author Edgar Allan Poe, literature essays, a complete e-text, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis.