Literary analysis of this story indicated that theme focused on the narrator who recovered from sickness and spend most of his time observing people around him, describing and categorizing based on their actions and mode of dressing. In the process, a unique man who does not fit into narrator’s predetermined categories appears and it completely absorbs and arrest narrators’ attention(Poe, 1845). As a result, the narrator started following the man around as he tries to figure out who the man was. After following the man for a day, the narrator gave up because he could not learn anything else about the man. This is the literal description of the story ‘The Man of the Crowd’, but it is important to understand the figurative meaning in order to unearth what the narrator meant.
In order to determine the key ideas of the narrator and develop the foundation of the thesis, it is prudent to formulate questions that needs to be answered. The first question that need to be answered is who is the man of the crowd? The second question is what is the relationship between this man and the crowd? The third question is whether this man is ordinary or an interloper that happen to stick out in the crowd(Mazurek, 1979). Literary analysis showed that ‘man of the crowd’ represent unspoken secrets of the crowd and that persons should not be judged by just looking at their expressions.For example, the narrator begun the story with the perception that he could learn about humans through single glance. However, one man who did not possessed predetermined qualities proved narrator otherwise.
As opposed to narrators’ initial perception, this single man showed the narrator there are secrets that could not be learn through countenance and not possible to categorize them into groups. This is clear indication that there is a lot more to humanity that what is presented in the countenance. In real life situation, human tend to categorize fellow human into predetermined groups upon meeting for the first time. This is the narrators’ initial mindset at the beginning of the story. For instance, the narrator “The wild effects of the light enchained me to an examination of individual faces… in my peculiar mental state, I could frequently read, even in that brief interval of a glance, the history of long years.”(Poe, 1845)From this quote, it is clear that the narrator brags about being able to learn about individuals by just looking at their faces.
The narrator used excessive adjectives such as ‘thimble-rig’, ‘gilt’ and ‘scrupulously’ to describe gamblers. This is clear indication that the narrator has spent quite some time observing the crowd and noting the type of clothing. In addition, detail description of individuals by the narrator present the mindset and perception that the narrator had mastered the art of scrutinizing people(Nicol, 2012). This was the perception until one man appear and the narrator was unable to categorize him into his predetermine groups. Narrator stated that “…once arrested and absorbed my whole attention, on account of the absolute idiosyncrasy of its expression…” The appearance of this man made the narrator interested to learn about him. For example, he used words such as ‘confusedly’ and ‘paradoxically’ which are completely opposite to words such as ‘despair’, ‘merriment’, ‘triumph’, ‘malice’ and ‘coolness’. This words represent different emotional spectrum and cannot be used to describe one person all at once.
The narrator gave up his pursued after a day since he realized that he could not learn more about the man. The narrator said “This old man is the type and the genius of deep crime. He refuses to be alone. He is the man of crowd. It will be in vain to follow; for I shall learn no more of him, nor of his deeps.”(Nicol, 2012) The ‘crime’ that the narrator described in this case refers to the secret nature of the humans. Humans have secret desire and this man was not unique because he also had secret desires. The ‘genius’ that narrator referred to was the fact that the old man did not hide the secret desires instead he chose to act on them.
Although each and every person have secret desire that he/she wishes to be fulfilled and strives towards realizing them, the motivation behind any of the action will never be revealed. Upon reflecting how humans’ deepest secrets cannot be revealed, the narrator chose to give up following the man(Nicol, 2012). This was an eye opener to the narrator since it was the first time from his perspective that he could not learn about this old man. Towards the end of the story, the narrator acknowledged that it was not the man that was only mysterious but also everything that was around him. Therefore, the idiosyncrasy and the refusal of the people to reveal to the world their secrets were the key ideas that captured the interest of the narrator.
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