The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket

My Thoughts

The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket was the only novel written by Edgar Allan Poe. The story primarily focuses on Mr. Pym's adventure on a whaling vessel that goes horribly awry at many different turns. Mr. Pym's abhorrent misadventure begins when he is locked in the ship's stowage with seemingly no way of escape. Set in a scene that would make a claustrophobic swoon, Pym fights starvation, dehydration, and his loving companion Tiger the dog in a very dark and tight space. When relief finally arrives he learns that a mutiny had occurred and most of the crew were horribly executed. Augustus, Arthur's friend whose father was the captain, was the only one spared execution or desertion at sea. Eventually, they team up with Peters, who decide that they should take the ship from the mutineers.

After an ingenious plot to draw attention from their enemies, the three men take the ship back leaving only one survivor, Parker. Unfortunately, during this time a heavy storm begins to overtake the ship and ends up destroying it leaving the four men stranded on an inoperable ship. To make matters worse most of the ship has been flooded, including the storeroom where their salvation lies. After many days and weeks pass, they have no choice but to draw straws determining who sacrifices themselves so the rest may have a chance at living. Parker draws the shortest straw and is quickly killed and eaten.

The body doesn't keep the surviving men satisfied very long and another attempt to raid the storeroom is improvised. Success is finally had and enough provisions to last more than a week are found. Unfortunately, this too runs out and Augustus expires from a pathogen that had infected a wound on his arm he sustained in taking back the ship. When all hope is lost for the remaining survivors, a British vessel finds and rescues them. This vessel is on a mission to the southern Pole and Arthur and Peters join in, not having much of a choice in the matter.

Eventually the ship reaches further south than anyone else and finds an inhabited island. The weather is strangely warm and the island is flourishing with flora. The natives have jet black skin and most dress in black furs. The wildlife seems to be darker as well which seems very odd considering an Antartic region. Trade commences and everything seems pleasant until the natives viciously ambush and kill everyone (isn't that always the case?) except Peters and Pym. Eventually, they escape the island and are forced to continue to move south.

The water increases in heat, steam seems to roll in like a dense fog, ash falls, and finally, they run into a gigantic white humanoid figure.... and the story ends. Yes, the story ends there.

My Rating

I rate this story a 3.8 out of 5. Mutiny, starvation, cannibalism, treachery, murder, hopelessness, and the supernatural are all themes contained in this rather short story (coming in at a little over 100 pages). Poe's vivid descriptions bring Arthur's pains to life and will have you continuously beg for some salvation on the protagonist's behalf, but more often than not, the adventure only becomes increasing morbid. The ending was disappointing and left more questions than answers, but this happens often with Poe so it is not a surprise.

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