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The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym

As the Wilkes Expedition, organized by the U.S. Navy, prepared to depart for South America and Antarctica during the late 1830s, polar travel received a great deal of attention in America. This was the context in which a serialized tale authored by Edgar Allan Poe appeared in the Southern Literary Messenger in January and February, 1837. Titled "The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym," it presented the story of an explorer, Arthur Gordon Pym, who traveled to the polar latitudes where he suffered a mysterious demise.

The tale first appeared "under the garb of fiction," but when Poe republished it a year later as a novel, he added a preface claiming the work was factual. However, the story is so bizarre that it is certain most readers realized they were being presented with fiction.

The story was a dramatization of the beliefs of John Cleves Symmes, a man who promoted the theory that the earth was hollow and inhabited within. Symmes had long sought funding for a polar expedition (led by himself) so that he could prove his theory. Poe's fictional explorer, Pym, was on a similar quest.

Links and References
Exploration and TravelLiterary Hoaxes19th-Century Hoaxes (1800-1850)Edgar Allan Poe


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All text Copyright © 2014 by Alex Boese, except where otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.