The narrator dashes out of the coffee shop to follow the man from afar. The narrator confronts the man but the man ignores him. The man is short, thin, and seemingly feeble.


How should we interpret ‘The Man of the Crowd’? The narrator stresses his newfound ability to observe and analyze the crowd around him but is unable to observe and analyze himself. The narrator tells the reader how he became utterly obsessed with following "a decrepit old man" around the city on one rainy evening in London. He describes the "filmy dimness" of the gamblers' eyes and thus suggests that this is a negative quality. [15], At the time of the story's publication, Poe's reputation in the United States was mixed, but his reception among many French modernists, including Stéphane Mallarmé and Paul Valéry, was enthusiastic. Is the latter story Poe’s attempt to explore the same theme – that of a ‘double’, one who is both the narrator and not the narrator, from a different angle?

The narrator divests himself of failure and removes any blame on his part. Enter your email address to subscribe to this site and receive notifications of new posts by email. The mysterious old man is a figure who does not allow himself to be read.

It’s perhaps telling that ‘William Wilson’ had been published in 1839, just a year before Poe wrote ‘The Man of the Crowd’.

Written in 1840, the story is deliciously enigmatic and, in some ways, prefigures later fiction, including modernism.

Attempts to analyze the old man as a character are fundamentally flawed. The strangeness of the situation threatens to destroy the narrator's view of the world even while he is "absorbed in contemplation." 4, 1938-1940, by Walter Benjamin, 313–55.

Only the armature remains: the pursuer, the crowd, and an unknown man who manages to walk through London in such a way that he always remains in the middle of the crowd". The man seen through the coffee shop window is a mysterious figure. The narrator demonstrates a clear lack of empathy. He sighs and walks to a nearby street.

Much as in a number of Poe’s other more celebrated stories, such as ‘The Black Cat’ and ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’, however, we get a carefully managed build-up of mood and suspense. [14], The story was first published simultaneously in the December 1840 issues of Atkinson's Casket and Burton's Gentleman's Magazine. He imagines that a protruding ear shows that the man is a store clerk who tucks his pen behind his ear all day. 11 Nov. 2020.

The narrator concludes the man is "the type and genius of deep crime" due to his inscrutability and inability to leave the crowds of London. Finally, we might seize upon that title.

The man of the crowd is strange, enthralling, and potentially malicious, just like the crowd itself. Poe's narrator, however, lacks Whitman's celebratory spirit.

The narrator believes that he understands the crowd but he cannot understand the old man. Many of the poorest people reflect "the worst impress of the most deplorable poverty."

He was fascinated by the crowd outside the window, he considers how isolated people think they are, despite "the very denseness of the company around".

The man is the book that will not allow itself to be read. He occupies a strange position in a story with very few characters.

The people begin to go their separate ways and the old man breaks into another desperate burst to find a new crowd.

The story concludes with the narrator standing in front of the old man to try to confront him, only to be blanked by the old man. London was the most populated city in the world at the time of writing. However, Poe’s text does not make any attempt to drop hints that the narrator and the old stranger are one and the same, and the nature of the ‘crime’ mentioned at the end of the story remains unexplained.

His clothes are filthy and ragged but seem to have once been expensive. He leads the narrator back to the street where the narrator first saw the man.

[8] All of this is a virtuoso performance of the representation of social typicality; it owes something to Dickens’s Sketches by Boz, but there is also something of the moralizing medieval Vice in its parade of degenerates, of depraved women and of social outcasts. You can read ‘The Man of the Crowd’ here before proceeding to our summary and analysis below. Sorry, your blog cannot share posts by email. The story is introduced with the epigraph "Ce grand malheur, de ne pouvoir être seul" — a quote taken from The Characters of Man by Jean de La Bruyère. [2] Why the narrator is so haunted by him is not entirely clear, though it is implied that the two men are two sides of the same person, with the old man representing a secret side of the narrator,[3] though the narrator is unable to see this. He was recently ill but his recovery has left him in good spirits.

He is of the crowd as is indicated by his name but is separated from the crowd by his "absolute idiosyncrasy." Course Hero. 2 Issue 4, p357, 11p, 2 Black and White Photographs, Kennedy, J. Gerald. The narrator acts like a member of the upper middle class or the gentry. His eyes were once like those of the gamblers but he cannot recognize the similarity that he shares with the people in the outside world.

The unnamed narrator begins by talking about dark secrets and mysteries which are better off unrevealed.

The man seems distinct from the deplorable crowd yet has a fascinating air about him. The epigraph is written in French, but the English translation reads "this great misfortune, of not being able to be alone."


The narrator describes a mysterious German book.

The narrator spots a mysterious man in the crowd. He believes that there are "some secrets which do not permit themselves to be told" and ruminates on secrets, criminality, and humanity. In “The Man of the Crowd,” Poe deviates from his usual style of storytelling, to raise philosophical questions about life, as an unnamed narrator secretly follows a man around the streets of London. He leads the narrator to a busy and poor part of London.

In one sense this is a sideshow, a digression from the main line of the narrative, which is concerned with the crowd only as an abstract force; in another, however, it brings to the fore the sense that it is only through these social clichés that the crowd can be made humanly understandable.

They arrive on the street outside the coffee house. Poe’s repeated use of the word ‘stranger’ suggests he is at pains to highlight the difference between the two men, and yet the narrator is mysteriously drawn to him.

(2020, July 10). There is no explanation of the man's deeper motivations beyond these aesthetic observations. Dawn comes up, and the narrator becomes too tired to continue to follow the dogged old man. The lesser clerks only possess "the affectation of respectability" rather than respectability itself.

The narrator claims to possess great insight but the man of the crowd is so utterly interlinked with the crowd that trying to understand either is a lost cause. Accessed November 11, 2020.

This man is unique among all the people the narrator has watched.

[7] While viewing these people, the narrator is able to ascertain a great deal of information about them based on their appearance and by noting small details.

The old man becomes a receptacle for the narrator's anxieties and fears rather than a character in his own right. [11] In agreeing with Benjamin, William Brevda contributes that “Poe splits the human psyche into pursuer and pursued, self and other, ego and id, “detective” and criminal, past and future…” “Poe also echoes Sophocles in his theme of the guilty knowledge that humans run from and simultaneously toward. The narrator cannot stop watching the man. His recent recovery from "an old fever" has led him to believe that he is more attuned to the human condition than ever before. [2], According to the text of the tale, the reason for the narrator's monomaniacal obsession with the man stems from "the absolute idiosyncrasy of [the man's] expression". It translates to This great misfortune, of not being able to be alone. ‘The Man of the Crowd’ is slightly usual among Poe’s stories in that it falls somewhat short of Poe’s most tightly plotted stories – very little, in fact, happens – yet it is clearly a story rather than one of Poe’s discursive pieces.

“Baudelaire and Poe.” Zeitschrift für Französische Sprache und Literatur 100 (January 1, 1990): 61–73.


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