Blog Post #7

“The Man of the Crowd.” What did you think?

“You some kind of stalker or something?”

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15 Comments

Filed under Short Story: Poe

15 responses to “Blog Post #7

  1. Karen

    The Man of the Crowd, when considered at its most base, is like Berenice – it is a tale of monomania, albeit less violent.
    The difference lies in the subject of that monomania – in The Man of the Crowd, the main character is obsessed with the expression of one man, instead of being obsessed with teeth. The reason for the narrator’s fixation on this man is because he, the narrator, cannot categorize the old man in the same way he spends his afternoon and his night categorizing others. The old man does not fit into any box of society – his linen is dirty but with a beautiful texture; he is described as being both malicious and merry, cautious and blood thirsty.
    The last half of the story is concerned with the narrator stalking his obsession. We notice that the old man seems to be unable to remove himself from the presence of others. He wanders around London, sometimes in circles, and throws himself at crowds. I wonder why he does this. Maybe he wasn’t all up there in his head. Or maybe he’s afraid to be alone because he has committed a crime. The narrator notes, after describing the old man’s expression, that the old man is carrying a dagger. In my opinion, this is the most plausible explanation for his behavior, barring Alzheimer’s.
    And as for the narrator? He’s just your average stalker, albeit with a better grasp of vocabulary than most.

  2. Jason

    It’s official. I think Edgar Allan Poe is really growing on me. Something about the themes in his works (at least in the two that we read) – monomania – really fascinates me. Man in the mirror is definitely not excluded from it. I think one question that really bothers me throughout the story was: Who was this man? What was the subject Poe was trying to ‘explain’ to us in this tale? Was it the narrator, the man he followed or us, the reader? Just when I thought it was save to conclude the ‘man in the crowd’ was the narrator the story forced me to think otherwise. Maybe all of us are the man in the crowd.

    Let’s start with the narrator himself (or herself, to be ‘socially correct’). Simply put, I think that he was insane. When he stated “in my then peculiar mental state”, I immediately draws the conclusion that, at least during the time of the story, he did not possessed a sane person’s state of mind. There was also a certain irony behind the story and his character. The narrator gave us a detailed explanation about the people he saw from the café; however, what really interests me was the fact that the story doesn’t really create that much direct inference about him, we can only learn about his characteristics through his words and actions.

    Anyway, coming back from that digression, we first learn that the story was going to be about ‘singling out’. Before the main text even begins, it was stated “this great misfortune, of being incapable of being alone”, which I think foreshadows the events to come. Also it was stated in a foreign language that the man “does not permit itself to be read”. From the text we know that the ‘man in the crowd’ has to be someone alone, someone odd, someone that is outside of the norm. Therefore we had reason to believe (at least initially) that ‘the man’ was the man the narrator was following, as he doesn’t fit into the different categories that the narrator was pigeonholing the other passersby into. At first the man who the narrator was stalking seemed difficult to be read by the narrator. By the end of the story, however, we learns that this person is actually not so odd, he was merely going about his business just as any other person would and that the narrator finally realizes that he could actually put this man into one of his categories. This then leads me to the conclusion that it was not the stalked man, but the narrator himself who was the ‘real’ man in the crowd. He was following this man, because he himself might not fit into one of his pre-determined group of people; he himself is odd, and was merely trying to find another ‘companion’ to be in a new category. He was the “man in the crowd”.

    So, we concluded that the narrator, who is following this random man, was the ‘man in the crowd’, as we believed that his monomania is truly bizarre. However, we, the reader, were also following this random man – the narrator – around. Thus making it apparent, that we ourselves could be the ‘man in the crowd’, for we are committing the same unusual acts as the narrator. I think this is one of the perks of Poe’s writing, and it is definitely something that I love – the way he draws the reader into his stories. Also, I think that this aspect of the story helps us to relate to the narrator and helps us draw conclusions concerning the true mental state of the narrator, is he actually insane, or is he simply just like us and perfectly sane? Which debunks the assertion that he was insane (despite the fact that he admitted to it himself). After all, we are ultimately doing the same thing: following a random man around, who appears strange and odd, albeit different fashion.

    I could not wait to read the next short story by Poe. From what I’ve read, I think that his stories are truly captivating and enthralling. No, I am not psychologically disturbed, I just like the fact that his stories doesn’t end in the dénouement, but it is something that will tease your brain.

  3. Nick

    Edgar Allan Poe is easily one of the most famous writers in modern literature. Even after 200 years his works are still being read and studied by hundreds of people around the world. I think what makes him so popular is the fact that no one really knows what went on in his mind that made him write such strange stories. His mind is just a mystery to practically every single person reading his stories. Because of this, people stay intrigued and want to read more of his stories. Also, his stories are short so people who don’t necessarily like to read long stories have something that is quick, yet has so much depth within those few pages.
    Death was something common to Poe, all of his family members died, leaving him alone and depressed. Because of this, his stories have a very dark and negative atmosphere; it makes the hairs on the back of your hand, stand up on end. It is ironic to see that he was actually afraid of death even though he always wrote about it.
    I’ve always wondered how Poe could have written such deep stories with such horrifying plots when he was constantly drunk and had so much on his mind. If he weren’t drunk, his marriage would have been saved, he would have had a job and perhaps he could have lived a normal life. However with the alcohol, I think that it allowed his mind to wander and he could just write about anything. So in a sense, alcohol was a “good” thing as it allowed us to know the genius that is Edgar Allan Poe.
    Some questions arise with the aforementioned statement; is it ethical to allow someone to keep damaging him or herself in order to get something of value from them? Should we still value the works of a delusional, alcoholic man? Questions like these are hard to answer because even though we pity those kinds of authors, we enjoy reading stories that are influenced by their suffering.

  4. Mikey

    I think Edgar Allan Poe is a gifted psychologist. I love how he describes in-depth, the ordinary lives of people who live in urban areas. His method is even more astonishing, he does not need to interview his subjects, he only merely observes their body language, as well as their eyes. He can tell a lot about people by only looking at their eyes, for I believe the saying “the eyes are the window of the soul” is quite a true sentiment.
    Edgar Allan Poe first analyzes the businessmen, whom Poe finds as individualists who only care about their own businesses. If they are bumped in the street, they simply adjust their coats and move on, not caring to complain or argue at all.
    Poe also describes clerks of two different classes: one of young nature, and the other of an older one. The young clerks dress and present themselves nicely, with their oiled hair and bright boots. However, he also sees them as haughty, which I would say is a natural thing trait among young people. They still have the rest of their lives ahead of them, and still see themselves as the next great thing.
    The Older clerks seem to be more toned down compared to these young bloods. They dress more conservatively in subtler colors, and seem to be more stabler in the way they project themselves. They also show more signs of physical wear; most of them are bald, and also have an unnatural ear shape, due to pen holding. Edgar found this class most worthy of his respect.
    Furthermore, he then mentions the more lower class peoples, which includes the Jew Peddlers, whom he saw as desperate individuals with hawk eyes flashing for potential buyers. Edgar also saw the drunks, who were also showed their souls through their bleeding red eyes: the mark of a man who’s lost hope.

  5. Stacy!

    The one writer that never fails to intrigue our whole class would indefinitely be Edgar Allan Poe. His short stories appear to be elusive, open-ended, and in some ways gives us room to either be creative or to reject the ideas that Poe attempts to permeate, as it is uncommon and uncanny. The story of “The Old Man and The Crowd” tells the tale of a narrator who observes the ways of people walking by in the early streets of London. He tells us of the evil that he finds in the character of the old man, who projects unusual and repetitive habits that might as well be symbolic. The narrator follows the old man unceasingly, noticing all his movement and habits. When I first read this tale I could not help but assume that Poe was not in a stable state. He was probably doing some sort of drug that caused him to be extra cautious, or paranoid about his surroundings. What we might not notice in this story is that Poe might attempt to reflect the evil that may lie within all of us. What makes the man of the crowd so appealing? What makes him different than all the other people that has entered, left and passed the cafe? It almost seems as if the old man was some random person that the narrator just happened to be intrigued by – due to his strange behavior. However, I could not help but reflect how every single one of us could be that man in the crowd. Although we might not necessarily circle around the same roads over and over again physically, it seems as if Poe attempts to project the uncertainty of the human condition in its mental state through extreme means. What I mean by this is the fact that we all, like the old man, have our own secrets and unusual habits – but we suppress them well in order to not break the status quo of society. We are fearful of the idea that we might stand out, be the person in the crowd that everyone notices. As humans, we sometimes want to simply be a part of a community, not an anomaly that people notice and judge. In many ways I feel that Poe is more of a political and social critic than we acknowledge. His writings are unusual, strange, but truthful.
    Just like the old man in the crowd, I never want to be alone, because being alone can cause the one human emotion we all long to escape – the feeling of isolation, being different, being unaccepted by those around us.

  6. Hartini

    “The Man of the Crowd” left me much more perplexed than “Berenice” did. In this case, not only was the work dominated by confusing language and a theme of indescribable fascination of something (monomania), but it also had a plot that seems to mean… nothing, really. If Poe were to only describe the kinds of people he was seeing – the businessmen, the peddlers, etc, it would have seemed like he was trying to point out that the world is full of routines and stereotypes – people who are so caught up in their work (or lack thereof) that they have lost all sense of true individuality or uniqueness. However, the addition of this man really throws us off. On another note, it’s really interesting to see how the narrator can identify and classify people into different groups just by observing their tiniest actions and features.
    Perhaps the meaning of the story is that sometimes, we’re part of the crowd – the identifiable, classifiable one. We can be classified as a stereotype, but we sometimes don’t want to be. We search for individuality and a sense of self, but we find ourselves going around in circles, getting nowhere. We’re chasing individuality, represented by the man, but we can’t find it. Of course, this could really be quite a stretch..
    Something I was struck with while reading in class (and feeling frustrated about not figuring out the meaning of the story) is that we are mindlessly following the narrator towards nowhere, the way the narrator is following the old man towards nowhere. It is as though we are the narrator, intrigued by something seemingly interesting, but actually has no value in it. Unlike many stories, when we the readers actually know the answers to the conflicts in the story (even if the characters don’t), we are in the exact same position as the narrator is – confused by the old man.
    What I want to know now is what Poe meant by “deep crime”. I think that would provide insights into why the narrator found this man worthy of the chase in the first place.
    Oh, and for anyone who wishes to relive those strange 11 minutes of 80’s filmmaking, http://vimeo.com/2131849 (y)

  7. Amelia

    Poe seems to have a specific fascination towards people with a certain monomania. In The Man of the Crowd, the narrator is in a peculiar state of mind. He realizes the influence it had on his judgment, but is not completely sane enough to let that realization stop his actions. During the first half of the story, the narrator describes his situation as an observer, presenting the readers with long, meticulous descriptions of the different types and classes of those who wonder through city streets. This continues on until he became fixated with an elderly, seemingly drunken man. What I found fascinating, was that the narrator utterly failed to recognize in the man of the crowd was possibly his doppelganger, an image of his own future self. The fact that the narrator has just recovered from an illness that affected his mental health leads the readers to question the validity of the chronicle provided. This is true for many of Poe’s works, where most of it is written in first-person, and where the readers glimpsed at the troubled state of the narrator.
    Crime and poverty is a prevalent theme found in many of Poe’s works. In The Man of the Crowd, the element of poverty is seen throughout the city, in the narrator and in the man of the crowd himself. The dagger and the diamond on the man’s body was one of the first things that grabbed the narrator’s attention. Both represent crime. As for poverty, it is apparent in the dirty rags the old man wears. It can also be seen in the city, as described by the narrator: “Horrible filth festered in the dammed-up gutters. The whole atmosphere teemed with desolation.”

  8. Daphne Tan

    Both of Poe’s works, Berenice and The Man of the Crowd is similar due to its seemingly identical narrators. Both suffer from monomania- a fancy word describing a person’s intense obsession over an object or person. Egaeus towards Benerice, and the narrator of “The Man of the Crowd” towards the man of the crowd (lol). Something I noticed about the main character of the latter story is the similarity of the main character with the character of Sherlock Holmes played by Robert Downy Jr. in the movies Sherlock Holmes 1 and 2. As you have said in class, it is very possible that Mr. Poe did “lay the foundations” of detective novels. The way he observed everyone walking past the coffeehouse, analyzed their traits and concluded with absolute certainty of their personality, traits, and character suggests that he might be an aspiring detective. A detective is usually someone of high curiosity with an eye for details, and this might be the reason for the main character’s random fascination towards the old man in the crowd. If we were to read this short story believing that this is a detective story, it wouldn’t be as bizzare to see the main character- the detective- following the old man.

    An interesting thing about the two short stories is Poe’s interesting way of presenting the story. The paragraphs seem to depict the character’s thoughts as it is. It starts from one topic, focuses on it, and quickly jumps to another, similar to how a mind wanders as it sees one thing and another. The paragraphs are long and very descriptive as the main character watches and observes the pedestrians. It’s as if Poe wrote a story showing how a detective’s mind works and wanders during their times of monomania.

    Another thing I noticed to have been done on purpose by Poe is the way the title is presented. Instead of it being called “The Man IN the Crowd” it’s called “The Man OF the Crowd. The man IN the crowd creates a feeling of singularity and ambiguousness in the minds of the reader. Questions like “yes, what about the man in the crowd?” and “what about the man made him deserve a story to be written about him?” are sure to be asked by the readers. But instead, Poe titled his short story “The man OF the crowd” suggesting that the old man is neither unique nor eye catching because he belonged. But instead, the main character- the detective- suddenly gained interest and quickly ran out of the coffeehouse just to follow him around for half a day. Maybe his normality made the narrator unable to analyze him unlike the way he easily analyzed the other pedestrians, which sparked his interest, because I personally found the other people in the streets to be more interesting than the old man. After following the old man all day, the narrator grew tired and finally gave up, but only after concluding that the old man is “the type and genius of deep crime”. The short story almost sounds like a prologue of a mystery-thriller movie starring Robert Downey Jr. as Sherlock Holmes, the narrator of the story. 😀

    ps. Hartini, no.

  9. Ainslie

    The Man of the Crowd is a pretty unclear short story. Just like Berenice, there was lots of tough vocabulary, but at least it wasn’t as messed up (in my opinion). Aside from just the vocabulary, this short story was confusing because a large section of it was only descriptions of groups of people in the crowd, and so the story felt like it wasn’t really getting anywhere. Even after there was some ‘action’ when the narrator decided to follow the man, nothing really happened during the pursuit, there was only some walking back and forth. The story ends with the narrator concluding that he has learned nothing about the man he followed for a whole night, and that he never will. Readers have to kind of hypothesize about the old man since the narrator doesn’t do it, though I’d imagine he has lots of hypotheses about that old man. Maybe those kind of ambiguities are one of the things that makes these Poe short stories appealing?
    One thought that some others probably have mentioned as well was about Poe as a writer. Was it possible for Poe to have written a random story off the top of his head, and then have people come up with interpretations that made it seem deep and literary? I’m not saying all of his stories were like that, but is it possible for a few to have been like that?
    Anyways, someting that we mentioned in class was Poe as the sort of father of the detective novels. In this story, the narrator observes crowds of people walking past the window of the cafe he’s relaxing at. The narrator categorizes the different people into different social classes, based on details of their appearance. It does seem like a detective type of thing, like what you would expect from Sherlock Holmes. Every little detail of their appearance is noted, down to something like the way the gamblers thumbs are pointed in a slightly different direction than the average person. Snooping around after people is another thing that detectives do too I guess, so I can somewhat make connections between this short story and the genre of detective novels in general.

  10. tiffany

    Poe’s ‘The Man in the Crowd’ is an intriguingly simple story, but with a sinister feeling to it. The narrator himself seems unreliable and he seems to be in a peculiar state of mind, and he simply follows a random old man not realizing that he is nothing but an old drunkard. There is the theme of illness mentioned in the story and one might wonder if it was a physical or a mental illness from which the narrator is recovering. This seems to be of a resemblance to Berenice, as well as Poe’s personal and recurrent use of unknown diseases in his short stories, for the narrator seems to possess a monomaniac disease similar to the Egaeus of Berenice. A motif of reading emerges in this story. At the beginning of the story, the narrator is reading the newspaper, but then proceeds to reading people. He tries to read the people frequenting the streets without considering them as individuals, but rather as types and then he tries to read the old man whom he, however, fails to read. This is also somewhat similar to Berenice because Egaeus does not regard Berenice as an individual human being, but considers her as something, or an object, to be analyzed, like the narrator of this story, who considers the people he sees as objects to be analyzed rather than individuals. Perhaps the old man actually is a doppelganger of the mentally deranged narrator. A clue for such a reading would be the narrator’s assertion that he was “with my brows to the glass” when he spied the old man. Earlier in the text it is said that the panes of the window were smoky. They might thus work like a mirror and the narrator is seeing is own face when looking out of the window. He would then consider the dark side of his own soul and the pursuit of the old man might only be a metaphorical journey through the narrator’s own mind. The places that he and the old man visit would than reflect the narrator’s own fears and concerns..

  11. Karen

    This is blog post #8
    The Tell-Tale Heart is my favorite Poe story so far; maybe that’s because I can relate to it. No, I have never murdered anyone, nor have I ever attempted to murder anyone. But I have lied. Although lying isn’t on the same scale of evil as murder is, I reacted in a similar – though less extreme- way.
    The narrator in the Tell-Tale Heart commits an act of sin, and has to bear with his reactions to it. Consciously, the narrator can act perfectly normal – exuberant, after successfully committing the murder. However, in the end, the narrator’s subconscious drives him to confess his crime by making the narrator imagine the intense thudding he hears. Although the narrator blames this reaction on his “over-acuteness of the senses”, I would still argue that his subconscious – or whatever form of a conscience he has left – influences him more than his conscious mind does. His conscious mind tries to justify what his subconscious makes him feel and think by labeling the thudding he hears as a mere exaggerated reaction.
    What I find a little funny is that the narrator does not waste his time defending his innocence. Rather, he tries to defend his sanity, and in doing so convinces the reader of his lack of it. Although he does execute his crime with precision and order, he still states that the idea of murder “haunted him day and night”. It is almost like the logical way in which the narrator approaches his murder, is the way he tries to make sense of his insane desires.
    The narrator is in a state of denial. His conscious mind does not want to realize his insanity, although his subconscious already does. In the same way, when I am in the wrong but do not want to acknowledge that fact, my subconscious makes me feel remorse. The Tell-Tale Heart is far more relatable than any of Poe’s other short stories, because it deals with a feeling we have all experienced – guilt.

  12. Patricia

    When we first read the story, I was pretty much clueless about what Poe was trying to convey in the story. The story was pretty much ‘nothing’ besides the narrator telling the readers how he stalked a guy for one whole night and the details of the old person’s behaviour. However, today’s class discussion seemed to make things make alot more sense. If we were to consider the old man as a symbol of Poe’s perspective on himself and how he lives his life, the story actually meant more sense to me. In the Romantic Period, artists strive to make some kind of signature within their work, be it a certain musical characteristic, or a unique style in their painting/sculptures, etc. It made more sense to say that there is a deeper meaning in Poe’s stories. Yet, what I do not seem to grasp is the fact that Poe’s works were widely accepted by the middle class readers. Were they well educated back then? Were they able to find the deeper meaning within Poe’s story? If yes, then why didn’t the upper class with better education be able to enjoy this literature? If no, how can the middle class enjoy a story that has little excitement as the Man of the Crowd?

  13. i dont understand the point of this work.. though it is well written and does have great descriptions, this book almost made me feel that Poe got tired of people coming to conclusions about his work he didnt intend for them to have, and sat down in hopes of creating a perplexing short story that would give book analysts and kids reading it in high school for years to come a headache. Personally i did like the book up until the very end. Poe gave “The man in the crowd” a very eerie hypnotic feel, and made me feel like some great example or metaphor, or simile was being made. However by the end i couldn’t think of a single conclusion to who the man was and what the point was….. i enjoyed it anyway and hope that Mr. Andrew might enlighten us further upon the meaning behind this work by Poe.

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