Foreign Phrases in The Man of the Crowd

Foreign Phrases in The Man of the Crowd

Q. How do the foreign phrases in The Man of the Crowd contribute to the story’s overall theme?

Edgar Allan Poe’s story “The Man of the Crowd” contains two foreign phrases. These phrases add interesting details to the story.

Foreign Phrases in The Man of the Crowd

The first one is a French quotation from Jean de La Bruyère ‘Ce grand malheur, de ne pouvoir être seul’ translates to ‘This great misfortune of not being able to be alone.’ This is the epigraph of the story.

This epigraph at the story’s beginning sets the tone for the narrative. It shows how the story focuses on feeling alone even when surrounded by people. 

The second in “The Man of the Crowd” by Edgar Allan Poe is a German quotation. It is ‘Es lässt sich nicht lesen,’ which translates to ‘It does not permit itself to be read.’

1- Ce grand malheur, de ne pouvoir être seul
The Old Man’s Fear of Solitude

The epigraph directly relates to the older man’s behavior. He seems afraid to be alone, always seeking out the crowded parts of the city. This fear of solitude is his “great misfortune,” as suggested in the epigraph.

His actions show discomfort with being alone and needing to be lost in a crowd. It reflects the idea that being alone with oneself can be challenging for some people.

The Narrator’s Inability to be Alone

The epigraph can also apply to the narrator. His decision to follow the older man through the streets of London shows his reluctance to be alone with his thoughts.

Instead of staying in the coffee shop and reflecting on his own life, he chooses to immerse himself in the mystery of another person’s life. It reflects the human tendency to focus on others to avoid dealing with one’s inner solitude.

Loneliness in the Crowd

The epigraph also speaks to the theme of loneliness in the story. The older man’s constant presence in crowded areas, yet his complete isolation from the people around him, highlights the idea of being alone in a crowd. It is a paradox where physical proximity to others does not equate to emotional or social connection.

Reflection of Urban Existence

In a broader sense, the epigraph reflects the urban existence portrayed in the story. The bustling city life, with its crowded streets and constant activity, can make it difficult for individuals to find solitude or understand themselves.

The city becomes a place where being alone is rare, yet true connection and understanding are even rarer.

The epigraph at the start of “The Man of the Crowd” is crucial to understanding the story. It introduces us to the themes of loneliness, the fear of being alone, and the complexities of human nature in an urban setting.

It perfectly encapsulates the paradoxical nature of the story’s characters and environment, where physical solitude is feared, yet emotional and social solitude prevails.

2-Es lässt sich nicht lesen

‘The Man of the Crowd’ is a story about a man who follows a mysterious old man through London. The phrase ‘Es lässt sich nicht lesen,’ meaning ‘It does not permit itself to be read,’ is crucial to understanding the story.

The Unreadable Old Man

This phrase perfectly describes the older man. He is like a book that cannot be read. The narrator is drawn to him because he looks different and seems full of secrets.

As the narrator follows him, he realizes that understanding the older man is difficult. The older man’s actions—moving through crowds, avoiding being alone, but never interacting with anyone—are puzzling. He represents something complex and unsolvable.

Narrator’s Obsession and Realization

The narrator thinks about the older man with an obsession. He thinks there must be a reason for his strange behavior. However, as he follows him from busy streets to quieter areas, the narrator starts to understand that some things, like the older man’s life, are beyond understanding.

It is where ‘Es lässt sich nicht lesen’ fits the story—the old man’s story cannot be ‘read’ or understood, no matter how hard the narrator tries.

The City as a Background

The city plays a significant role in the story. It is full of life and people but also has a sense of loneliness. This setting shows how others can surround people but still be alone, like the older man. The busy streets and crowd make the older man’s loneliness and mystery even more noticeable.

The Limit of Human Understanding

The story teaches us about the limits of understanding other people. The narrator realizes that no matter how much he watches the older man, he will never fully understand him. The story teaches a lesson that it is difficult to understand why people behave the way they do.

In conclusion, ‘Es lässt sich nicht lesen’ is a key phrase for “The Man of the Crowd.” It shows that the older man is full of mysteries that the narrator cannot solve.

The story is a deep look at curiosity, loneliness, and the limits of understanding others, especially in the anonymous setting of a big city. It tells us that some aspects of human nature will remain a mystery, just like some texts that are difficult to comprehend.


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