Write an essay discussing the following points:
  1. Thoroughly show how the work of literature fits the definition of Romanticism.
  2. Show how the writer’s life affected his/her work.
  3. Show how the work compares in style, character, theme, etc. to other works by the author and to your other assigned work.


The Man of the Crowd (1840)

By: Matt Vermeersch


“The Man of the Crowd” written by Edgar Allan Poe is a story about a man in a crowd. This coincides, obviously, with the title of the short story itself. The story is about a man who is stuck in a crowd on a street and is describing all of the people he sees around him. The narrator just talks about the people he sees, describes their appearance, and tells what they are doing while he is watching them. Then there is this one man who particularly catches the attention of the narrator. He is an old man and is for some reason just very interesting. The narrator then follows the man around and describes everything he is doing. He goes far more into depth than all of the other people to which he has described, but for some reason he is not satisfied. He does not know the man. Then the old man starts to walk away from the narrator and the narrator says, “
This old man,' I said at length, 'is the type and the genius of deep crime. He refuses to be alone. He is the man of the crowd. It will be in vain to follow; for I shall learn no more of him, nor of his deeds” (Poe, “The Man). This whole story as seen in the description above, is entirely focused onto the individuals around the narrator. One of Romanticism’s main descriptions is the value of individuality and finding the truth by “transcending the actual” (Werlock).

Throughout the whole story, it is just a basic street setting of a busy street in London. There is a big crowd and the narrator is describing everything around him. The narrator tells of, “There were many individuals of dashing appearance, whom I easily understood as belonging to the race of swell pick-pockets, with which all great cities are infested. I watched these gentry with much inquisitiveness, and found it difficult to imagine how they should ever be mistaken for gentlemen by gentlemen themselves. Their voluminousness of wristband, with an air of excessive frankness, should betray them at once” (Poe, “The Man), or, “The gamblers, of whom I described not a few, were still more easily recognizable. They wore every variety of dress, from that of the desperate thimble-rig bully, with velvet waistcoat, fancy neckerchief, gilt chains, and filigreed buttons, to that of the scrupulously inornate clergyman than which nothing could be less liable to suspicion. Still all were distinguished by a certain sodden swarthiness of complexion, a filmy dimness of eye, and pallor and compression of lip. There were two other traits, moreover, by which I could always detect them; -- a guarded lowness of tone in conversation, and a more than ordinary extension of the thumb in a direction at right angles with the fingers. -- Very often, in company with these sharpers, I observed an order of men somewhat different in habits, but still birds of a kindred feather. They may be defined as the gentlemen who live by their wits. They seem to prey upon the public in two battalions -- that of the dandies and that of the military men. Of the first grade the leading features are long locks and smiles; of the second frogged coats and frowns” (Poe, “The Man), and so on and so forth. He is just describing the people around him and really detailing the things he notices in particular about the groups around him. This goes along with Romanticism valuing the individuality of people. Romanticists often, “based on the concepts of the individual and of individual freedom” (Barney).

Edgar Allan Poe, in many people’s minds, is thought to be more of the “dark’ writer. While Poe was growing up, he witnessed his mother pass away in front of him at a very young age. His family was then split up and himself and his siblings were adopted all by different families. He was then taken in by the family of John Allan. When Poe was in college, he was kicked out for gambling to much, then kicked out of Allan’s house for the problems he caused in the house (Sova). This is to what many people attributed his “dark” style of writing to.

The only real comparisons one could make between “Silence,” a poem which is also by Edgar Allan Poe, to “The Man of the Crowd.” The only time which they are comparable would be in the first paragraph of “The Man of the Crowd,” “It was well said of a certain German book that 'es lasst sich nicht lesen' -- it does not permit itself to be read. There are some secrets which do not permit themselves to be told. Men die nightly in their beds, wringing the hands of ghostly confessors, and looking them piteously in the eyes -- die with despair of heart and convulsion of throat, on account of the hideousness of mysteries which will not suffer themselves to be revealed. Now and then, alas, the conscience of man takes up a burthen so heavy in horror that it can be thrown down only into the grave. And thus the essence of all crime is undivulged” (Poe, “The Man). This has many dark words within it, and would fall under the category of Dark Romanticism. The poem “Silence” is all about death and it is a very dark poem indeed.

To another Romanticist story I would compare it to would be “The Minister’s Black Veil” by Nathaniel Hawthorne. “The Minister’s Black Veil” is about how a man who is seen to be holy in many people’s eyes but then decides to put on a black veil that covers his face. Then the rest of the story is about the people's reaction to this veil. The "minister" even sacrifices a marriage just to keep the veil on. In the end he tells of how the people reacted to it during his lifetime and how it was just a sheet of cloth covering his face. These two stories can be linked together because they are about people. The stories both are about how the people within the story react to the people and things that are going on around them. Once again, the individual is the center of these stories and can be related to Romanticism by that point.

"The Man of the Crowd" is a story which finds the truth by telling you and going above and beyond what is put forward in words. The story is about how this man follows everyone around and he does not want to get acquainted with this select group of people because he believes they do this, and so on and so forth. This story has a large portion of it that really focuses on the individual, which according to Werlock is an aspect of Romanticism. It can also fall under the Dark Romanticism category because its introduction is about death and is is very dark and eerie. "The Man of the Crowd" is an excellent short story which is concentrated on the environment of people around him and about individuals who surround the man. It is an excellent example of Romanticism.





Barney, Brett, and Lisa Paddock, eds. "Romanticism." Encyclopedia of American Literature: The Age of Romanticism and Realism, 1816–1895, vol. 2, Revised Edition. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2008. Bloom's Literary Reference Online. Facts On File, Inc. Web. 09 Dec. 2010. <http://www.fofweb.com/activelink2.asp?ItemID=WE54&SID=5&iPin= EAmL0751&SingleRecord=True>.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. "The Minister's Black Veil." Ibiblio - The Public's Library and Digital Archive. Web. 09 Dec. 2010. <http://www.ibiblio.org/eldritch/nh/mbv.html>.

Poe, Edgar Allan."The Man of the Crowd." University of Virginia Library. Web. 09 Dec. 2010. <http://etext.virginia.edu/etcbin/toccer-new2?id=PoeCrow.sgm&images=images/modeng&data=/texts/english/modeng/parsed&tag=public∂=1&division=div1>.

Poe, Edgar Allan. "Silence." The Literature Network: Online Classic Literature, Poems, and Quotes. Essays & Summaries. Web. 09 Dec. 2010. <http://www.online-literature.com/poe/2149/>.

Sova, Dawn B. "Poe, Edgar Allan." Critical Companion to Edgar Allan Poe: A Literary Reference to His Life and Work, Critical Companion. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2007. Bloom's Literary Reference Online. Facts On File, Inc. Web. 09 Dec. 2010. <http://www.fofweb.com/activelink2.asp?ItemID=WE54&SID=5&iPin= ffazpoe0957&SingleRecord=True>.

Werlock, Abby H. P. "Romanticism." The Facts On File Companion to the American Short Story, Second Edition. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2009. Bloom's Literary Reference Online. Facts On File, Inc. Web. 09 Dec. 2010. <http://www.fofweb.com/activelink2.asp?ItemID=WE54&SID=5&iPin= CASS719&SingleRecord=True>.