Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis
“The Man of the Crowd” by Edgar Allan Poe
Card picked: Two of Hearts – Would you believe that? A wild card for the second week in a row. The third in six weeks! I decided again on an Obscure Literary Monster.
This little gem begins, as many of Poe’s stories do, with an epigraph, a quote by Jean de La Bruyère: “Ce grand malheur, de ne pouvoir être seul” or, “This great misfortune, of not being able to be alone.”
Our unnamed narrator is on the mend after being sick for a while (“merely to breathe was enjoyment,” he comments) and is observing the crowd from the window of a London coffee house. Poe treats us to feats of deductive reasoning as the narrator infers the professions and positions of many of the passers-by. Toward dark, though, he is especially intrigued by one old man who seems to defy other description.
…there arose confusedly and paradoxically within my mind, the ideas of vast mental power, of caution, of penuriousness, of avarice, of coolness, of malice, of blood-thirstiness, of triumph, of merriment, of excessive terror, of intense — of supreme despair. I felt singularly aroused, startled, fascinated. “How wild a history,” I said to myself, “is written within that bosom!
Despite his fragile health and changing weather, our narrator decides to follow this man. He’s led all around London, from street to tavern to docks, never stopping anywhere for more than a second or two and always led by the ever-present people of London. In fact, this old man only seems invigorated by the crowd; the bigger, the better. The narrator decides that this strange being is forever restless and unexplainable. He simply exists everywhere there are people. This man has the great misfortune of not being able to be alone.
As Obscure Literary Monsters go, this one is at least disquieting, if not truly monstrous. Still, how often have I clicked from Facebook to Twitter to Reddit to my RSS feed reader and back to Facebook again. The Man may still exist even if the Crowd is different.
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