The epigraph at the beginning of “The Man in the Crowd” brings up the interesting question of what it really means to be alone. While the actual definition of alone is “quite by oneself, unaccompanied, solitary,” (“Alone”) the story, through the narrator’s thoughts and the observations of the nameless man in the crowd, can serve as a different perspective on being alone if applied beyond the situation in the tale. The epigraph says how terrible it is to never be alone, and the story serves as a metaphor for Poe to comment on how he views someone’s ability to actually be apart from the crowd. The story goes to show how social norms, thoughts of others, and inherent desires limit someone from ever being truly alone. Poe seems to believe that people are always a part society and are never fully separate and that possibly no one actually wishes to escape the crowd entirely.
The thoughts of the narrator of the story represent how thoughts of others create unknowing connections that make it so no one is alone. The narrator serves as a direct example of the opinions people form while viewing others. He “regard[s] with the minute interest the innumerable varieties of figure, dress, air, gait, visage, and expression of countenance” (Poe, 233) of the individuals in the crowd. If he sees a person with “a filmy dimness of eye” and talking with “a guarded lowness of tone in conversation” then he assumes he is a gambler that “prey[s] upon the public” (Poe, 234). He uses the aforementioned characteristics to determine what type of person he or she is and ranks them on a “scale of what is termed gentility” (Poe, 234). Each person is objectified in the narrator’s mind upon observations of their clothing, cleanliness, and facial expressions. The narrator thinks that he can guess the occupation and lifestyle of a person by simply seeing them for less than a second. He then forms opinions of the people he sees and they have no way of knowing that he has those thoughts. Although, a...
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