greenspun.com : LUSENET : The Work of Edgar Allan Poe : One Thread

i NEED a summary of this novel asap....

-- Anonymous, May 04, 2003


www.e.apoe.org has the text which begins with Poe's own summary advertisement of all the adventures contained therein as a teaser. But- summarize a novel? How much? Let's take a structural tack. The first section was originally a separate magazine story dealing with the nightime sailing accident of Augustus and Arthur. Perhaps toying with a serialization such as Dickens regularly did Poe determined to enrich himself with a blockbuster. The time spent was ruinous and fruitless. A popular run in England made him no money. It was readily mistaken for non-fiction. The end of the book, another teaser hinting at missing chapters to be printed agin in a magazine, never was done.

So we have the opening adventure and the missing closer bracketing another series of parallels within. Go with the boats. First section: the sailboat Ariel sinks, rescue of the boys by the whaler Penguin. Arthur stows away on his friend's father's brig Grampus. Another diaster, this time a mutiny that the hidden Arthur helps overturn as a fake ghost. Their new ally Dirk Peters, a half breed sailor becomes the new surviving companion. He and Arthur are rescued by the Britisih schooner Jane Guy which is exploring the South Seas toward Antarctica. Just as Poe borrowed from real life incidents for the firsts troubles he borrows from other expedition reports to detail the newly explored regions. They come to land among the Tlalal savages who attack the ship and in an explosion it is destroyed. Peters and Arthur are alone once more. With a captured native(who soon dies) they escape in a frail canoe that is taken by the currents to the uttermost south. With hints(Ms. in a Bottle story) of approaching the southern polar hole and plunging within, they see arising in their path a mysterious white figure of the "whiteness of snow". Finis. Of course, Arthur is telling this to Poe later so something happened that he survived. But Arthur dies leaving only the possiibility that missing pages(or Peters) might show up later.

Judging by the use of ships and parallelism it may well be the full circle of being rescued once more by the ice-encrusted whaler Penguin with its Penguin figurehead covered in ice. In any event Poe awaited two things. The csuccess and popular storm for more which never happened and the success of the Wilkes expediition which was supposed to settle the hollow earth theory once and for all. Which fell short too. Wilkes never explored far into Antarctica.

By this point Poe was using the real life adventures of Jeremiah Reynolds who was also looking for the polar hole where the seas rush into the hollow earth to reemerge in the north. Reynolds was pretty much convinced the theory was wrong but Poe left his novel open to several possibilities. Judging by measuring the novel by the boats it is very symmetrical.

People who settle for the extraordinary symbolism as the sole explanation for the abruptly ended tale miss the adventure story Poe was trying to market.

-- Anonymous, May 04, 2003

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