108 Introduction to The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket (1838) (2016)

Lindsey DeRoche, Cassandra Gray, Kameron Towle, Meganne Tuplin

The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket was written by Edgar Allan Poe in 1838 and was his first and only novel. However, he did produce many other books full of his most famous poems and short stories. Poe was born on January 19, 1809 in Boston, Massachusetts. His parents died in 1812 when he was a toddler, and he was taken in by John Allan and his wife, Frances. They lived in Richmond, Virginia, where Allan worked as a successful tobacco merchant. Living with the Allans is where Poe would gain his full name that he would become famous for: Edgar Allan Poe. He attended college at the University of Virginia in 1826, where he pursued a degree in Ancient and Modern languages. He ended up dropping out of the university, and wrote for many magazines until he found himself unemployed when he moved to New York during the “Panic of 1837”. Poe eventually found fame from his Gothic short stories and poems, most notably “The Raven”. He swiftly became a household name which lead to crowded lectures and high status/fame. (Poe Museum)

In The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, there are countless examples of the macabre, dark/disturbing imagery, and the exploitation of the fear and paranoia of the human psyche. Poe was one of the most notable members of the American Gothic movement in literature, and his use of these tropes are common patterns within his style of writing. According to Teen Ink, “Gothic literature was generally mysterious and ominous, filled with death and terror, used omens and foreshadowing, and showed the dark side of human nature.” All of these components are used within the novel. To name a few instances, the text is chock full of murderous executions, dismal weather, and even a note written in blood.

The psychological aspect of American Gothic literature illustrated at the beginning of the voyage is also a rich example. Arthur Pym is forced to hide beneath the ship in a hold with the rest of the storage. While confined to a crate for over two weeks, Pym is left to combat his own psychological obstacles. At times, due to both physical and mental duress, he teeters on the brink of a psychological unhinging. With a lack of sufficient food and water to nourish his body and no human contact to assuage his anxious mind, Pym wonders if he has been forgotten or abandoned completely. As with any other Poe work, or even any American Gothic work, the dark and malignant side of the human psyche is used as a tool to impart readers with the same discomfort as the characters.

As a group, we have come to the consensus that this novel should be anthologized due to both the prestige of the author and the in-depth representation of American Gothic literature within the text. What is most striking to us is the plausibility of this work, which adds a kind of psychological thrill. This piece of literature could realistically happen during this time in American history, which evokes even more of an impact than something like Frankenstein of the British Gothic movement (which could never happen). The essence of plausibility within the novel holds a certain level of danger for the reader, as they know the events are not beyond possibility.

Works Cited

Poe, Edgar Allan. The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2005. Print.

“Who Is Edgar Allan Poe?” Poe’s Life. Poe Museum, n.d. Web.

Willis, C. “The American Gothic Movement.” Academic | Teen Ink. N.p., n.d. Web. <http://www.teenink.com/nonfiction/academic/article/340013/The-American-Gothic-Movement/>.


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The Open Anthology of Earlier American Literature: A PSU-Based Project Copyright © 2016 by Lindsey DeRoche, Cassandra Gray, Kameron Towle, Meganne Tuplin is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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