The Man of the Crowd (Poe)

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The Man of the Crowd
Summary of the Short Story
Microsummary: A convalescent man became fascinated by an old man's peculiar behavior and followed him through the streets of London, observing his constant need to be surrounded by people and his avoidance of solitude.

One evening in autumn, a man sat at the window of a coffeehouse in London, observing the bustling crowd outside. He was recovering from an illness and found himself in a particularly observant mood. As the evening progressed, the crowd grew denser and more diverse, and the man became increasingly fascinated by the various characters passing by.

He noticed a decrepit old man, around sixty-five or seventy years old, whose peculiar expression caught his attention. The man decided to follow the stranger, curious to learn more about him.

The Narrator — narrator; convalescent, curious, and observant.
The Old Man — decrepit, mysterious, and anxious; constantly seeking the company of crowds.

"How wild a history is written within that bosom!" the narrator thought as he first observed the old man's face and became intrigued by the intense emotions and secrets that seemed to be hidden within him, prompting the narrator to follow him.

He trailed him through the busy streets, noticing that the old man seemed to be familiar with the city and its various establishments. As the night wore on, the old man led the observer through increasingly dangerous and impoverished areas of London. Eventually, they arrived at a gin palace, where the old man seemed to regain some of his energy. However, when the establishment closed for the night, the old man's despair returned, and he retraced his steps back to the heart of the city.

The observer continued to follow the old man throughout the day, growing increasingly weary. Finally, he confronted the stranger, who did not acknowledge him but continued his solemn walk. The observer concluded that the old man was the embodiment of deep crime, a man who could not bear to be alone and who thrived in the chaos of the crowd.

This old man is the type and the genius of deep crime. He refuses to be alone. He is the man of the crowd.

He decided that it was futile to continue following the stranger, as he would learn nothing more about him or his deeds. "It will be in vain to follow; for I shall learn no more of him, nor of his deeds," the narrator thought, finally deciding to stop pursuing the old man, realizing that he will never truly understand the man or his actions.