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2020 Group Reads - Archives > Arthur Gordon Pym Week 3: Chapters 13 to 19

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message 1: by Rosemarie, Moderator (last edited Jan 15, 2020 06:57AM) (new)

Rosemarie | 2785 comments Mod
Chapter 13 is one of the most horrific chapters in the book so far. They are still adrift and things don't look good.
What are some of the events and details that you find horrific? that show how dire their situation is?

Chapters 14, 15 and 16 describe the journeys of the Jane Guy as they stop at various locations and then head south, as well descriptions of other journeys to the south.
Did you learn anything in these chapters? any details or descriptions that you thought were important or interesting?

In Chapter 17 and 18 the fantastic events begin. Please comment on any of them.

Arthur convinces the captain to keep on heading south, even though the captain is not sure it is a good idea. Do you think that the captain should have followed his own instincts and left the area?

In Chapter 19 the atmosphere changes again. What indicators show that the natives may be dangerous or untrustworthy? What is the village like?


message 2: by Brian (new)

Brian Reynolds | 698 comments This was a very interesting section as the story took turns I did not expect. I did not expect a science fiction account of an exploration of the Antarctic area.
The story is presented here as a scientific report, with constant mention of latitudes and longitude. While some of it is based on real-life expeditions it is also fantastical.
Much is pure fiction, or speculation, in that they are sailing in waters where, in reality, there is land, as Antarctica is mostly land at 70 degrees and all land at 80 degrees south latitude. This speculation reminds me of the arctic voyage described in the non-fiction In the Kingdom of Ice where 1880 explorers thought that, due to Pacific currents, it might actually be warm enough to sail to the North Pole.
This section of the story felt similar to a Jules Verne story.


message 3: by Rosemarie, Moderator (new)

Rosemarie | 2785 comments Mod
I was reminded of Jules Verne too, but Poe wrote earlier than Verne.


message 4: by Brian (new)

Brian Reynolds | 698 comments Rosemarie wrote: "I was reminded of Jules Verne too, but Poe wrote earlier than Verne."

I know. That the book was before Verne and Lovecraft, and may have influenced them, makes me admire the book more. I thought the book was a little sketchy and unclear in its descriptions through the first parts and I did not enjoy reading most of it. Now, as it has turned into something a bit more imaginative that I expected, even if I'm not enjoying the reading, I feel like I am at least reading an influential book for genres that became more developed later.


message 5: by Rosemarie, Moderator (new)

Rosemarie | 2785 comments Mod
What is it about Antarctica and strange happenings?
For a long time, it was unexplored, so maybe that is why authors let their imagination run wild.


message 6: by Emma (last edited Jan 18, 2020 02:51AM) (new)

Emma (emmalaybourn) | 298 comments One thing bewildered me: in chapter 6 the narrator had said that Augustus did not tell him until many years later how he feared Pym had died in the hold: "Many years elapsed, however, before I was aware of this fact. A natural shame and regret for his weakness and indecision prevented Augustus from confiding to me at once what a more intimate and unreserved communion afterward induced him to reveal."

So I'd been expecting a long life for Augustus, and was taken aback when he died in Chapter 13 in such horrible circumstances. I can only assume Poe changed his mind about how the story would progress while he was writing it (unless the book is going to become even weirder than it is at present.)

Up until this section, the book reminded me of nothing so much as The Rime of the Ancient Mariner with its nightmarish events and the plague ship; but now with the rescue by the Jane Guy the narrative has switched tone abruptly and entirely, as Brian said, to become a scientific report. These latest chapters read like a travelogue or history of exploration, with a bit of anthropology thrown in. All the details of longitudes and latitudes etc seem to place the book back in the realm of realistic fiction even though the Antarctic land and peoples it describes are totally impossible. But as Rosemarie suggested, Poe's readers wouldn't have known that.


message 7: by Brian (last edited Jan 18, 2020 06:34AM) (new)

Brian Reynolds | 698 comments Emma, as to your question about Augustus' fate, WIKIPEDIA states:

"One reason for the confusion comes from many continuity errors throughout the novel. For example, Pym notes that breaking a bottle while trapped in the hold saved his life because the sound alerted Augustus to his presence while searching. However, Pym notes that Augustus did not tell him this until many years elapsed" even though Augustus is dead eight chapters later. Nevertheless, much of the novel is carefully plotted. Novelist John Barth notes, for example, that the midway point of the novel occurs when Pym reaches the equator, the midway point of the globe."


message 8: by Rosemarie, Moderator (new)

Rosemarie | 2785 comments Mod
Thanks for calling that to our attention. So what is really going on?Or was it just a continuity error?


message 9: by Emma (new)

Emma (emmalaybourn) | 298 comments According to Wikipedia, the book had quite a confused history of publication. It began as a serial in 1836 but was then abandoned until Poe finished the book and had it published in 2 volumes in 1838. So it's possible Poe just forgot the details of the early parts by the time he came to complete it, and never went back to revise. As a short story writer he wouldn't have been used to the practice of tying up all the loose ends in a full-length work. Or maybe he thought the loose ends didn't matter.


message 10: by Rosemarie, Moderator (new)

Rosemarie | 2785 comments Mod
That does help explain the inconsistencies. Poe is a masterful short story writer but the novel may just be too difficult for him to undertake entirely successfully.


message 11: by Detlef (new)

Detlef Ehling | 56 comments I also think that these inconsistencies and the switching back and forth between a horror story and a scientific report of sorts makes this a sometimes difficult read. I found the book sometimes very exciting, even if the details (for good reasons) are far fetched, at other times I was a bit bored with all the nautical details. I think Poe was brilliant in his short stories, but this seems a bit unfinished. It can be explained by the gap between starting the novel and finally finishing it for publication. It appears that he did not really made himself completely familiar with the first part before revising it.
Another thing is that I am at a loss what happened to the dog. Maybe I missed something.


message 12: by Rosemarie, Moderator (new)

Rosemarie | 2785 comments Mod
He really should have mentioned something about the dog. This book is not well structured. Some of the chapters could almost stand alone as horror stories. I think this book needed major editing, without the extra chapters of nautical or historical information.
But Poe did have a difficult life, so we don't know how much that affected him when writing this book.
I have finished the book and not to give it away, but there are more inconsistencies.


message 13: by Lori, Moderator (new)

Lori Goshert (lori_laleh) | 1295 comments Mod
I was also surprised by the death of Augustus. I had expected him and Arthur to share the events of the whole book. I'm also surprised Arthur hasn't mentioned him since, not even a line to say he wished Augustus was there. And it's strange the narrator hasn't mentioned Tiger either, given how much Arthur loved the dog.

It took me a while to get through this section. One night, I stopped reading at the part where he was talking about the albatrosses and penguins building their nests. When I turned on the Kindle a couple of nights later, I was a bit confused as to what I was reading, since I do often read nonfiction books about nature.

The narrator has given us some foreshadowing that something horrible is about to happen, so I suppose I'm looking for it (through the racism of chapter 19). Maybe the guys should have just eaten those entrails. It shouldn't have been a problem for Arthur and Peters after the Parker incident.

The "undiscovered" aspect explains a lot. The part with the bear made me raise my eyebrows a bit, and then the water getting warmer as they went further south (and still hadn't reached Antarctica).

I agree that Poe's short stories are better.


message 14: by Rafael (new)

Rafael da Silva (morfindel) | 270 comments This section was a complicated one to get through. Nothing interesting happens. I was confused about the description af Antarctica but later I recalled that no one knew how Antarctica was. Specially its fauna. There is not bears there, as Lori pointed out above.


message 15: by Rosemarie, Moderator (last edited Jan 20, 2020 08:16PM) (new)

Rosemarie | 2785 comments Mod
I keep comparing this to a Canadian science fiction novel, A Strange Manuscript found in a Copper Cylinder by James De Mille, first published in 1888. The author may have been inspired by Poe, but that book had a much better plot.

Poe is good at creating creepy scenes, but the long intervals of background information really ruin the flow.


message 16: by Emma (new)

Emma (emmalaybourn) | 298 comments Rosemarie wrote: "I keep comparing this to a Canadian science fiction novel, A Strange Manuscript found in a Copper Cylinder by James De Mille, first published in 1888. ..."

I haven't heard of that one but it sounds interesting. I must try and get hold of a copy.


message 17: by Deborah, Moderator (new)

Deborah (deborahkliegl) | 4460 comments Mod
I’m playing catch up. All the nautical references made this section drag for me. Yes there are many inconsistencies that sometimes leave me shaking my head.

As for the dog, he simply disappears from the story in chapter 8


message 18: by Rosemarie, Moderator (new)

Rosemarie | 2785 comments Mod
It's hard to stay focussed. It's almost like two people wrote the novel, since the styles are so different at times.


message 19: by Deborah, Moderator (new)

Deborah (deborahkliegl) | 4460 comments Mod
Rosemarie wrote: "It's hard to stay focussed. It's almost like two people wrote the novel, since the styles are so different at times."

I agree. The style drastically changes


message 20: by Frances, Moderator (new)

Frances (francesab) | 1804 comments Mod
I agree that there seem to be 2 separate tales going on. Did anyone ever trace the voyage via all the latitudes and longitudes to see if some of it actually matched known geography?

What about all the reports about trips to try to discover the South Pole? Is that all made up?

There is certainly the suggestion of something dreadful to come...


message 21: by Frances, Moderator (new)

Frances (francesab) | 1804 comments Mod
Also, I acquired a beautiful edition of this book on sale which has a particularly gruesome illustration of the albatross eating the captain's corpse-I have attached a video showing the book here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xYrYl...


message 22: by Rosemarie, Moderator (new)

Rosemarie | 2785 comments Mod
Those are gruesome, Frances.
I think that some of those voyages were probably historical. Jules Verne does the same thing but his stories make a lot more sense.


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