Hear the story of Edgar Allan Poe’s only novel, “The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket”


Soon after he arrives in Philadelphia
Poe’s one and only novel is published: a dark maritime adventure that ends in a
violent battle between blacks and whites in the South Seas. I think one thing that
was very much on Poe’s mind was the explosiveness of the slavery debate that
was going on in the United States at that time. A young Nantucket man tells
the story of sailing to remote Antarctica. After brutal confrontations with black
natives kill off most of his shipmates, the narrator is swallowed by a strange
white Maelstrom. That’s probably the thorniest text from
Poe on issues of race and slavery. The story can be read as a kind of racist
allegory, or as an allegory that is a cautionary tale against the imperialist
mentality. The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym culminates in the remote South Seas,
but the reference to rocks that look like corded bales of cotton was a signal
to all readers that this narrative – although it seems to be set in a very
distant place – touches subjects that are very close to home. The novel failed to
find commercial or critical success. Poe leaves the long form behind to focus on
short stories, poetry, and his often stringent criticism.

One thought on “Hear the story of Edgar Allan Poe’s only novel, “The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket”

  1. A Band called Ahab did a concept album on this story – it's amazing – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1P_USRlU0ng

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