What Is the Name of the Only Finished Novel Written by Edgar Allan Poe?
In 1838, Edgar Allan Poe deviated from his usual style of short stories and wrote his first and only novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket. Although it is now considered a precursor to the science fiction and detective genres, Poe's works are best known for their macabre plots featuring the supernatural, and Arthur Gordon Pym is no exception. The novel, which was completed five years before Poe published some of his most famous works, such as "The Masque of the Red Death," "The Pit and the Pendulum," and "The Tell-Tale Heart," tells the story of a New Englander named Arthur Gordon Pym who stows away on a ship and experiences shipwrecks, mutiny, and cannibalism while at sea.
Despite having some literary success before the publication of the novel, Poe's work was harshly criticized. This was partly due to the political turmoil surrounding American slavery at the time. The abolitionist movement was gaining momentum, and some scenes in Arthur Gordon Pym seemed to reflect the then-bubbling social tensions. Several literary critics interpreted the story and its symbols, including a clash between white sailors and Black islanders, as a political statement against slavery. Others dismissed Poe's novel for its depictions of violence. Some readers were even disappointed to discover that the book was a work of fiction and declared it a hoax. As a result of its poor reception, Poe abandoned the novel and returned to writing short stories, calling it a "very silly book."
However, not everyone considered Poe's book a failure. Literary historians believe that author Herman Melville likely read the book and that it may have inspired his own work, Moby-Dick, which was published in 1851. Over time, reviews of Arthur Gordon Pym softened, and in 1897, Jules Vern wrote a two-volume sequel titled An Antarctic Mystery, which continued the supernatural story nearly 60 years after it was first published.