Edgar Allan Poe Humor for Middle School

Whether Edgar Allan Poe’s humor will suit middle school students is a matter for middle school students to decide. I would encourage middle school students to search for the humor in Poe’s stories. I think they will like his humor when they find it.

If middle school students were to analyze almost any Poe story, even his tales of terror, they would likely find some humor either simmering along the surface or inserted between the lines. A Poe humor search would make a good middle school homework assignment. Then a great classroom discussion likely would follow. I’d bet that discussion would be fun for students and teachers alike.

Edgar Allan Poe’s Thou Art the Man, a detective story on the surface, features mocking humor imbedded within almost every finely-wrought sentence. Stealth and insistency mark Poe’s humor in this story, as it does in most of his stories. The narrator who tells Thou Art the Man never spoils the mystery that makes an effective detective story. Nevertheless, he insistently hints at what the reader should expect to conclude long before the story actually concludes with mystery solved. Poe ingeniously disguises the humor that is always lurking, always there to be discovered.

As with most of Poe’s stories, readers might not catch humor in "Thou Art the Man" the first time through. But once the reader knows the ending, a second reading should reveal the humor that runs through the piece. Finding it can be quite a reward. Once, I recommend this exercise to middle school students, or to anyone for that matter!

Middle school students will also appreciate one other aspect of our adapted version of Edgar Allan Poe’s Thou Art the Man. Marc Johnson-Pencook’s illustrations add both gravity and humor to the story. Why not examine Marc’s illustrations closely during your second reading searching for Poe’s humor. His pen and ink illustrations are outstanding! They deserve and reward close scrutiny.


It bears mentioning that VOYA Magazine rated Edgar Allan Poe’s Thou Art the Man Top Shelf Fiction for Middle School Readers in 2015. A panel of five middle school educators reviewed many books before choosing ours as one among a select group to receive this rating. We were proud and honored they chose it and, of course, we wholeheartedly agreed with their assessment.