Turning a Narrative Into a Film Term Paper
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Man of the Crowd
By Edgar Allan Poe (1840)
The story significantly depicts not only the preoccupation of the 17th hundred London issues and a trend brought by the progressive industrialization of time, but speaks so much relevance in our modern time as well. The epigraph which sums up the very essence of the story explains the dynamic of a human being too busy to mingle with the crowd for fear of facing the haunting memory of a disturbed self, the lonely person, the conscience and the unsettling disturbances deep within. The epigraph "Such a great misfortune, not to be able to be alone" is rich in context within the story, but also a rich source of reflection of a human and societal struggle. I firmly believe in the relevance of the story not only in its significance to the theme and era when this story was written, but for me, it is a narrative worth producing to a film. It is a glaring representation of the fact that many, if not most of us, are really "unknown" and fear the "unknown" but would completely hide such insignificance through anonymity in the bustling noise of everyday life, in the crowd, in the company of people. In our society, reading signs of times, as well as reading people based on the knowledge of social sciences made most of us smugly confident that we can just fit people in a category sciences constructed, only to know and discover that at certain point in time, the individual differences and uniqueness of every human being can bring conflict to what we already conceived as stereotype; which then losses our confidence of what we used to know as "certain," "typical" and "familiar." Then we realized the depth and scope of human nature that cannot be simply categorized into black and white, clean and dirty, royal and beggar, right and wrong. As always, each person is uniquely design and complex in its nature, as the main character in the story, the narrator, discovered. In the word of Mazurek:
"So we have a story in which noting is to be divulged but the un-divulged, in which the hidden secret that is pursued is finally revealed as that which cannot be revealed. Not surprisingly, the narrator's discovery of ambiguity is itself ambiguous; the tale, which begins and ends with statement about unfathomable mystery, turns in upon itself" (12:25-28)
Character. It is a story about an unnamed narrator who started his feat by categorizing people in the crowd while he was sitting near the window in an unnamed coffee shop, where he is watching outside the crowd in London Street, after having battled from an unnamed illness. The story begins when the narrator, in his fascination at how people are alone and isolated despite the crowd they belong, decided to categorize each person in the crowd. As the day ended, the narrator's focus shifted to a "decrepit old man" who he surmised to be sixty five to seventy years old whom he could not categorize at all. The man has a "peculiar idiosyncrasy" and he proceeded to describe the short stature, feebleness and other physical characteristic of the old man "wearing filthy, ragged clothes of a beautiful texture." He then decided to follow the old man through countless crowded places such as the bazaars and shops, buying nothing, aiming to get nothing, until he went deeper into the poorest area of the city and back again to the crowded street which is the "heart of the mighty London." The narrator followed the old man until the next day, when he finally concluded that the man does not fit to any category he constructed. He finally thought that the man is a "type and genius of deep crime" due to some characteristics he noted: unsettling, disturbed, with the hidden dagger inside his clothes, and his inability to leave the crowd of London, perhaps for fear of being hunted by the crime he made in the past; or perhaps, by being alone, he will be sorted out or identified by authorities or people that knew of his crime. The narrator categorized the old man as "inscrutable" a misfit to his category, and therefore, not common, not typical, but rather a deviant. The conflict begun when the narrator who was confident of his ability to read every person in the crowd according to external sign, failed to identify a certain old man, a
contradiction beyond the narrator's range of typology. It is in this curiosity and the obsession to solve the mystery surrounding the personality of the old man that led the narrator to explore the other side, in fact the deepest side of a happy London landscape, only to find out that-although he succeeded in following the old man-he still failed to "fit" or "suit" him into any category he knew. The author disclosed the disparity between the narrator and the object of his obsession: the secure, confident man of his time of the former character, and the deviant, unknown and feeble type of the latter character. The author also reveals that the narrator and the old man who became the object of his inquiry, is one and the same person . It signifies the dual personality of an individual in that kind of society. The narrator and the narrated is one and the same person with interesting character or traits. The narrator himself pursued his own "unknown" side in vain. He could not, at the end of the story, solve the problem of the uncategorized persona he was pursuing. As the narration goes in Edgar Allan Poe's short story:
"And here, long, amid the moment increasing confusion, did I persist in my pursuit of the stranger. But, as usual, he walked to and from, and during the day did not pass from out of the turmoil of that street. And, as the shades of the second evening came on, I grew wearied unto death, and stopping fully in front of the wanderer, gazed at him steadfastly in the face. He noticed me not, but resumed his solemn walk, while I, ceasing to follow, remained absorbed in contemplation. This old man, is the type and the genius of deep crime. He refuses to be alone. He is a man of the crowd. It will be in vain to follow; for I shall learn no more of him, nor of his deeds. The worse heart of the world is a grosser book than the Hortulus Animae, and perhaps it is but one of the great mercies of God that 'er last sich nict lessn" (translated as "it does not permit itself to be read").
The short story deals with the paradox of duality: the crowd which can be easily read, and the individual mysteries that lurks in the crowd. It talked about the predictability of characters, as well as the unpredictability of some aspect in a character. The story showed the two sides of personality and in general, the duality of life: the readable and the unreadable, the typical and the uncategorized; merriment of the city and the loneliness of the suburb; the grandiosity and affluence of the mainland and the misery and poverty of the periphery areas or suburb. The story suggests that in the predictability of things, there is always a phenomena for a one percent or more unpredictability, hence, there is always room for mystery, an instance in anyone's life which cannot be fathomed, cannot be interpreted and thus, it "does not permit to be read" and to be left as it is. Human mystery, especially deep loneliness and fear can be veiled by hiding not in the closet or isolated place, but also in a crowd. It is the paradox in the story represented by the old man, a man who is so afraid to be alone; fear hunted him in his solitude that he needs to be in the crowd for the rest of his life.
Historically, the short story was written in 1840, when London was is in its peak of population boom. The population in London grew steadily so that century- rich men had to build estates and towns to accommodate the growing needs of the populace. The city's phenomenal growth was attributed to the flux of migrants seeking for employment, political refugees, and merchants. Establishments in the town became the favorite spot for all business transactions, as well as various Vanity fairs, theatrical attractions and other amusement venues. This is where the narrator of the story took view of the city's crowd while enjoying his cup of coffee and newspaper. While the city is growing, so does goods and products including wine, cigarettes, and other sources of vices, such as gambling resulting to incidence of crime .The city had two faces: while it is progressive, it also showed poverty at its worst; while the city is populated, overcrowded, with lots of possible sources for distractions, it also painted loneliness unimaginable. Poverty, misery,…
Sources Used in Documents:
Anxiety Care UK. Fear of Being Alone-Monophobia. 2012. 10 November 2012
Auster, Paul. The New York Trilogy. New York: Penguin, 1990. Gerald, Kennedy J.
"Poe, Death, and the Life of Writing." Yale University Press (1987): 118.
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