Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Trusting the Narrator Pym

Poe urges us to mistrust the narrator Pym.  On the one hand Poe uses "the potent magic of verisimilitude," making the book believable to the ignorant public.  Yet on the other he slips in multiple occurrences of contrasting observation and questionable memory.  We mentioned in class the deliriousness brought on by liquor that allowed Pym to appear as a real ghost to the mutineers.  When the boat they see turns around it is mentioned that Augustus in particular thought the boat was still coming and that seaweed was a boat to take him away.  We only have Pym to rely on to know that there was even a boat, not just a fragment of imagination brought on by suggestion and desperation.  After Pym and Peters were rescued, change in memory brought on by time and change in situation is brought up.  "I have since found that this species of partial oblivion is usually brought about by sudden transition, whether from joy to sorrow or from sorrow to joy-the degree of forgetfulness being proportioned to the degree of difference in the exchange. Throughout the book he flip-flops between intense sorrow & joy, even marking the extremes with fainting fits.  The fact that he mentions his faults in memory do not make them any more authentic.

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