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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Preface-Chapter 3Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Preface Summary

Content Warning: The source material features depictions of racism and alcohol misuse. Terms reflecting racist language are included only in quoted material.

A few months after returning from his adventures at sea, Arthur Gordon Pym addresses the conditions under which his narrative is being published. He had been hesitant to share his story for two primary reasons. First, not having kept a journal during his travels, he is concerned about being able to provide enough detail to maintain “the appearance of truth” (1). Second, he is afraid that the “positively marvelous” nature of his experiences will prevent readers from believing they actually happened. He adds that he does not trust his own abilities as a writer. However, an editor at the Southern Literary Messenger named Mr. Poe agreed to publish Pym’s narrative in the Messenger under the condition that it be presented as fiction. To his surprise, many readers refuse to believe the story is fiction, and they write letters to Poe arguing in favor of its veracity.

Chapter 1 Summary

Pym introduces himself and shares his family background. He also introduces his friend Augustus Barnard, whose father, John, is a sea captain. After years of hearing stories from Augustus about his father’s adventures, Pym begins feeling “the greatest desire to go to sea” (3).