Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Man of The Crowd” is a compelling story of a man who believes he has the ability to read people just as he has the ability to read words. In the time period of this short story, there is an increasing popularity of advertisements based on accentuating pop-words. This indication that the majority of the public has the capacity to read, shows an evolution not only of the advertising culture, which would previously contain only pictures to indicate what was being sold or provided, but also the gain in overall education throughout the country.
I thought this piece was cleverly crafted as I saw parallels between print culture and societal obsessions placed throughout. The main character of the story is a man who is clearly sophisticated and educated as he begins his observations of human nature in a scientific way, deducing backgrounds of individuals just through a few seconds of observation. We have all heard the phrase “don’t judge a book by its cover,” and have used this to warn people of making initial judgments of a person based on the way they portray themselves. In this case, the narrator blatantly abandons this motto and makes judgements just as passerbyers do with advertisements.
The narrator becomes perplexed with trying to figure out what’s up with this one dude that he encounters, and decides to stalk him all day and all night, following him everywhere he goes, eventually coming to the conclusion that the man insists on being a part of the crowd, going unnoticed. As the beginning and end of the story both contain the phrase “’Er lasst sich nicht lesen’ – it does not permit itself to be read,” this indicates even though the narrator is obsessed with finding the meaning behind who this man is, just as one would be obsessively reading a novel or a series to figure out an end goal or deeper meaning, he comes to the conclusion that sometimes things are meant to be left mysterious.
I give this story 4 out of 5 stars. The metaphorical parallels that Poe plants throughout the story are incredibly strategic.They keep the reader on his toes, aching to find out who this man in and of the crowd is, and why the narrator is so enamored by him. I highly recommend this piece to all who find interest in the dissection of thought processes. Its ambiguous perspective gives the reader an eye opening experience to the underlying themes of American society.
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