Edgar Allan Poe's The Man of the Crowd As a Satire of the Penny Press
3610 Words15 Pages
Poe's "The Man of the Crowd" As a Satire of the Penny Press
In the mid-nineteenth century , the "penny newspaper" could be found on almost every American urban street corner. These penny papers, as they were popularly called, provided the American people for the first time in history with informative articles about local city events, incidents, and, more importantly, inner-city crime. These penny rags revealed an entirely new world to the American citizens; they were informed for the first time of the many heinous crimes and murders that occurred right in the vicinity of their own houses. At a time when America was first being introduced to such local injustices, it is quite understandable that penny papers claiming to present factual accounts of local life and crime would be a primary source of intrigue. Americans were known to daily purchase these papers for a penny apiece just to satisfy their hungry curiosities. However, the journalists of these penny papers, in hopes of increasing their paper sales, would frequently exaggerate or sensationalize actual incidents of murder or robbery to the point where they bore little or no resemblance to the real-life occurrences they initially observed. A simple accident, for example, would be spotlighted as a foiled attempt at a brutal murder, and a single murder would often be written up as a gruesome massacre. The more outlandish these articles became, the more likely Americans were to purchase them.
The demand for sensationalism became so popular among the American people, in fact, that many journalists often resorted to creating completely exaggerated stories of common everyday people when they ran out of actual crime related incidents about which to to exaggera...
... middle of paper ...
... to ridiculously invent a sensational crime where there clearly is no crime, Poe may very well be suggesting that the penny press reporters of the nineteenth century were not to be trusted because they, too, were nothing more than outright liars about common everyday incidents. In this light, it can be said that Poe's short story "The Man of the Crowd", is a story meant to suggest that the sensational, wild criminals who were so frequently presented in the articles of the penny press papers of his time were actually nothing more than everyday common people of the crowd.
Crawford, Nelson Antrim. The Ethics of Journalism. New York: Greenwood Press, Publishers, 1969. 42, 46-47, 110-111.
O'Neill Edward. The Complete Poems and Short Stories of Edgar Allan Poe With Selections From his Critical Writings. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1973. 308-314.