46 pages 1 hour read

Edgar Allan Poe

The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 1838

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Important Quotes

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“One consideration which deterred me was, that, having kept no journal during a greater portion of the time in which I was absent, I feared I should not be able to write, from mere memory, a statement so minute and connected as to have the appearance of that truth it would really possess, barring only the natural and unavoidable exaggeration to which all of us are prone when detailing events which have had powerful influence in exciting the imaginative faculties.”

(Preface, Page 1)

In this remark from the Preface, Pym discusses his reasons for hesitating to publish his narrative. He draws attention to the fact that he might not be able to record everything accurately, and he expresses anxiety that his story might seem a little true but will ultimately reflect only the natural desire that all storytellers have to report the truth.

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“Yet, as the reader has seen, both Augustus and myself were rescued; and our deliverance seems to have been brought about by two of those almost inconceivable pieces of good fortune which are attributed by the wise and pious to the special interference of Providence.”

(Chapter 1, Page 7)

Pym describes the conditions under which he and Augustus are saved from the wreckage of the Ariel. Notably, he references “Providence” here, and throughout the novel, he will discuss the role of fate and destiny in similar ways. He also suggests that the reader is already familiar with the rest of his story, implying in a meta-narrative way that the entire tale is already available to anyone who wishes to engage with it.

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“For the bright side of the painting I had a limited sympathy. My visions were of shipwreck and famine; of death or captivity among barbarian hordes; of a lifetime dragged out in sorrow and tears, among some gray and desolate rock, in an ocean unapproachable and unknown. Such visions or desires—they amounted to desires—are common, I have since been assured, to the whole numerous race of the melancholy among men.”

(Chapter 2, Page 11)

In this passage, Pym emphasizes his own identification as a “melancholy” man who craves disaster, strife, violence, and even death. He, thus, aligns himself with many of Poe’s protagonists: someone with self-destructive impulses, perhaps living on the fringes of society, who is struggling to accept his own dark desires.