Edgar Allan Poe and the Rogue

  In recent years, the “wanderer”, a character who is wandering around and leisurely, has penetrated into every corner of the cultural field, arousing great interest of cultural researchers. What, then, makes wandering so attractive? Tester once pointed out that wandering is an “activity of loitering and watching,” an activity that is “a combination of literature, sociology, and urban (especially metropolitan) life. A recurring theme in art”. White understands the wanderer from the perspective of space, “Paris is the city of wanderers”, here, “the aimless wanderer is lost in the crowd, … let his curiosity lead his footsteps.” Guo Jun, a domestic scholar From the perspective of time, it gives a more specific and perceptible definition of wanderers: “In the 19th century, people in Paris who had money but no labor were well-dressed, elegant in temperament, and had nothing to do. Alas.” As a result, the cultural symbol of “wanderer” has been labeled with many labels such as wandering, watching, curious, city, crowd, Paris, the 19th century, etc. Although these understandings have their own emphasis, one thing is clear Yes, the “wanderer” – this cultural symbol composed of images – is closely related to modern life, and perhaps this is why the theorists in the cultural field are so tirelessly attached to the wanderer, because to some extent On the other hand, his image and behavior – as Tester understands it – are very helpful in “understanding the nature and impact of conditions of modernity and postmodernity”.
  It is generally believed that the concept of the rogue first appeared in Paris in the first half of the 19th century. In his work “The Wanderer and His City”, Burton also publicly declared: “There is no image that can more thoroughly belong to Paris in the early nineteenth century than the wanderer.” However, if we trace the history of the wanderer, the earliest The impressive wanderer is not in Paris, but in London, to be exact, in Edgar Allan Poe’s Man in the Crowd, where the wanderer reveals his rudiments.
  Benjamin’s famous “Baudelaire” has a section devoted to “wanderers”, in which he specifically mentions Edgar Allan Poe’s “Man in the Crowd”. In his view, “Man in the Crowd” is like a “x-ray photo of a detective novel”, in which there is no bizarre and strife criminal behavior that is customary in detective novels, but contains a complete detective. The framework of the novel, namely “stalkers, crowds and an unidentified man who is always walking among the London crowds”. Interestingly, The Man in the Crowd, a short story originally published in Graham’s Magazine in 1840, was completed precisely in Poe’s first detective novel, Murder in the Rue Morgue (1841). )Before. So, in a way, the story is more of a prelude to the Edgar Allan Poe detective novel series.
  The story of “The Man in the Crowd” takes place in downtown London. The narrator of the story is a modern man living in urban life. The bustling crowds come to pass the time, thinking that in a short glance, a long history can be read from one face. At the beginning of the story, Edgar Allan Poe described the observer this way: “Curious about everything. With a cigar in my mouth and a newspaper on my lap, I spent most of the afternoon enjoying myself, reading it in a while. Those advertisements in the newspapers, while observing the cluttered crowd in the coffee shop, and then staring at the street outside the window through the smoked black glass.” Such a vivid portrayal of Biao Riyuepo is quite familiar to such observers, so he also How could there be so much interest in such an urban watcher?
  We may wish to compare this short story with the “Mosken Vortex Ups and Downs” created the following year. It is not difficult to find that, whether it is the narrator of “Man in the Crowd” or the fishermen in “Mosken Vortex”, Edgar Allan Poe has endowed them with a special meaning, and they are not only narrators of events and witnesses, and all try to understand the unfamiliar external world by observing some superficial phenomena. First, the narrators in both stories have encountered complex and unfamiliar circumstances. In the story “Man in the Crowd,” the narrator in the cafe sees the different days after nightfall in downtown London: “The gaslight has finally prevailed, casting bursts of light on all objects. Dazzling light. Everything is dark but brilliant—like the ebony that has always been likened to Tertullian.” Likewise, the Norwegian fisherman in Mosken’s Vortex is drawn into the vortex at night. , in his observation, the surface of the water seems to be “smooth ebony”, “that bright moon… pours its golden light into this huge vortex.” Darkness and splendor, ebony and light create a strong contrast , this contrast brings a strange feeling of alienation to both narrators, and subsequently arouses their strong curiosity. Then, the two narrators saw an unusual sight. In the story of “The Man in the Crowd”, the narrator not only noticed that “the lights in front of the window flickered very quickly” after nightfall, but also found “the heads of people outside the window”. The properties of the surging ocean” have changed. In “The Ups and Downs of the Mosken Vortex”, the fisherman who was sucked into the maelstrom also noticed the “dark black water wall” and objects floating in the whirlpool with him, such as “wrecks of ships, beams and pillars of houses” and various tree trunks” are falling into the “bottom of the vortex with high splashing water” one after another. These never-before-seen phenomena prompt the two narrators to begin their observations with uncanny interest. The object of interest to the observers of “The Man in the Crowd” is the character and occupation of the crowd outside the window, while the fisherman is curious about the relative speed of the falling objects in the vortex. It is worth noting that these two observers are in these unusual In front of the scene, he maintained a calm and composed attitude. Perhaps it is this composure that allows the two narrators to use their familiar concepts to make some kind of rational explanation when confronted with unfamiliar phenomena. The latter uses the principles of physics and geometry to explain the different falling speeds of objects of different sizes and shapes in the vortex. However, the endings of the observers in the two stories are different, and the fishermen are trapped in the maelstrom
  In the narrator’s view, the reason why this face had a huge impact on him was because of its “absolutely unique look”. If the narrator can still identify the mixed crowd with ease, Then the old man’s face clearly surpassed his ability to discern. As soon as the narrator sees this illegible face, he immediately interrupts his reading of the crowd and has the idea of ​​”trying to analyze some meaning from that look”. However, as he tried to analyze and interpret this, all he had in mind was “a mess of contradictory concepts”, “prudence, stinginess, greed, composure, resentment, murderous, triumphant, joyful, nervous …” In fact, when the narrator cannot make an effective analysis of the old man’s face and there is an interpretive crisis, it just shows that his interpretive system has some kind of flaw. Perhaps out of curiosity, perhaps to make up for a flaw in the interpretation, the narrator leaves the café and begins a detective stalking of the old man. The old man kept traversing the muddy streets of London for 24 hours, and the observers who followed him, although they had reached the “most surprising point”, still decided that “he will never give up” has now attracted all my interest. this investigation.” Unfortunately, the narrator’s curiosity is not satisfied in the end, because until the end he still can’t understand why he is so obsessed with this tracking, nor can he understand the real purpose of the old man chasing the crowd.
  In a way, it’s not unreasonable for the narrator to risk his life to stalk a stranger for 24 hours in a rainy night, but for a man recovering from a serious illness, exuberant, and intrigued by everything , this seemingly absurd stalk coincides with the psychological and physical state of the narrator at the time explained at the beginning of the story, who “feels himself in a pleasant state of mind that is diametrically opposed to burnout—the state of the most intense desire… even breathing It’s enjoyment, and I even get real pleasure from many orthodox sources of pain”. Moreover, from the behavior of those he pursues, the unknown old man always seems to have a burning desire to enter the crowd. , his “anxiety” seems to be able to get some kind of temporary comfort only in the hustle and bustle of the crowd. Here, Edgar Allan Poe’s grasp of the emotions of urban people is very consistent with Simmel’s analysis of the urban mental state. Simmel once Claims that modern life is “pervaded by a sense of tension, anticipation, and inexorable urge”, which arises from “the lack of something certain in the depths of the soul” that “drives us Chasing short-lived gratifications in renewing stimuli, sensations, and extrinsic activities. As a result, we are caught in a state of fickleness and overwhelm…” Simmel and Poe unanimously characterize nervousness as a characteristic of urbanites. In Simmel’s case, urbanites are either sensitive and neurotic patients because they do not In order to adapt to this intensely stimulating sensory environment and fall into despair, either cold, reserved, world-weary strangers, in order to adapt to this stressful urban life, show restraint and retreat into the personal inner world. In Edgar Allan Poe , Urban people are nameless old people who “reject loneliness” and seek stimulation. He is indifferent to ordinary stimulation. Only when he encounters strong stimulation can he get spiritual excitement, otherwise he can only endure emptiness and boredom. Maybe, It was out of this fear of emptiness that the old man walked the streets of London, chasing the noise of the crowds. The city’s dispersing crowds were the source of his anxiety, which was why he was in the wee hours of the morning. When I see a cheap pub still open, I can’t help but let out “a low, half-surprised scream”. Perhaps only in the crowd can the old man make up for the lack of stimulation in the realm of experience. At the same time, the old man’s passion for excitement The behavior even deeply infects the narrator, so that his own behavior has a similar compulsive character. However, as mentioned earlier, unlike the old man, what the narrator wants to make up is not the lack in the field of experience, but the A flaw in interpretation.
  So who exactly is Poe’s wanderer? The nameless old man who rejects loneliness and chases the crowd, or the narrator who watches the crowd and chases the old man? Benjamin’s comments may give us some inspiration on this point. He had stated explicitly: “This unidentified person is a rogue.” However, Benjamin seems to have realized something was wrong and corrected this identification in a subsequent article. “People in the crowd are not wanderers,” he said. “In people in the crowd, madness replaces composure.” Indeed, the unnamed old man being tracked was more like a man wandering around on the road. The lively people, the former losing their individuality in the frenetic pursuit of the crowd, the latter ecstatic about the sight of the city, they both become part of the crowd, what Benjamin defines in the footnotes” Stunned people”, so the revealing presentation of the big city does not come from them, to some extent, they can only become one of the urban landscapes in the end. In Benjamin’s view, the wanderer sees the city while knowing that he is watching, just as the actors in Brecht’s epic play know that they are performing while acting. Indeed, the true wanderer reads and appreciates what he sees, while maintaining his individuality and distance from what he sees.
  In this sense, Poe’s wanderers are not “people in the crowd”, but narrators who track the unknown old man. When the old man follows the crowd and seeks the source of urban excitement for his spiritual excitement, the narrator follows the old man, looking for a viewing object that can be temporarily satisfied for his desire to watch. He is full of curiosity, but maintains full independence. At the end of the story, the narrator declares very solemnly that “This old man is the symbol and essence of sin, and he refuses to be alone. He is the man of the crowd.” – This way of reading from the otherness ends the pairing The fascination with the behavior of the elderly. As a rudimentary wanderer, he naturally has a flaw in his ability to interpret. He can neither read the old man nor himself. Perhaps at the end, the narrator associates the old man with sin and the “worst heart in the world”. His vague but powerful response to the inability to read the old man’s strong emotions. At the beginning and end of “Man in the Crowd,” the narrator refers to unknown sins that are “unknown to the world,” a coherent link that seems to suggest whether it is “unreadable” or not. Knowing is a form of crime because it violates the rogue’s rules of the game – loitering should be a palpable lighthearted pleasure, not an unpredictable anxiety.
  From this, we can conclude that the reason why Edgar Allan Poe was so interested in the wanderer as observer and narrator is that the latter’s method of observing the modern life of the city attracted him, however, in his view, the urban With the rapid changes of life, the representation method of wanderers has certain limitations. To go beyond this limitation, he proposed a new method of observation, one that was frequently used in the subsequent detective novel series DuPont Detectives. So, how is the detective’s method of urban interpretation different from the wanderer’s urban reading? In Poe’s subsequent detective series, we find that the detective shares some similarities with the wanderer as a passerby, both seeing Cities are landscapes, and they all maintain a detached attitude, trying to interpret the truth by observing superficial phenomena. However, between the phenomenon and the truth, the wanderer believes that there is a direct reciprocal relationship between the two, just as he believes that a person’s face and posture are enough to explain the essence of his personality: for a detective, the truth can certainly be obtained from the clues observed. However, it is worth scrutinizing whether the two must be absolutely equivalent. The phenomenon does not necessarily point to the truth. Perhaps the truth exists more in those places that have not been seen. Therefore, inference and interpretation are in the process of reconstructing the truth. Phenomenon is equally important. In addition, there is a very different attitude towards the mysterious phenomenon of the city, which in the wanderer tends to have some kind of empathic effect, which in turn induces his unease and anxiety; in the detective, this phenomenon Phenomenon won’t gain any sense of identity, it can only become his path to the truth. Therefore, the detective’s urban interpretation ability far surpasses that of the wanderer. In the eyes of detectives, the city is full of secrets, but such secrets can be cracked in some way, especially by deciphering those neglected phenomena and objects, the secrets of the city are hidden in all kinds of folds, observation, Analysis, reasoning, and interpretation are the best ways to find the truth in the folds. On the basis of this new observation method, Edgar Allan Poe not only created a new genre of “detective novel”, but also created a new type of urban observer – a detective represented by DuPont, thus providing a new type of urban life for urban life. A new reading mode is provided.