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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Character Analysis

Arthur Gordon Pym

Arthur Gordon Pym is the novel’s narrator and primary protagonist. At the beginning of the story, he is a 16-year-old boy living in Nantucket, Massachusetts. He comes from a prosperous, established New England family. His father works as “a respectable trader in sea-stores,” and his maternal grandfather is a successful attorney who “was fortunate in everything” (3). He owns a small sailboat called the Ariel and is fascinated by the idea of sea travel, but he is not very knowledgeable about sailing at the beginning of the novel. He has a bold and mischievous streak and frequently deceives the people around him to get what he wants. For example, he tells his parents he will be staying with a relative in New Bedford; this allows him to sneak away to sea. He also lies to his grandfather about his identity when the latter almost catches him boarding the Grampus, even donning a fake accent to successfully confuse the old man. However, he reflects with self-awareness on his own tendency toward dishonesty:

The intense hypocrisy I made use of for the furtherance of my project—an hypocrisy pervading every word and action of my life for so long a period of time—could only have been rendered tolerable to myself by the wild and burning expectation with which I looked forward to the fulfilment of my long-cherished visions of travel (12).