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The first person opening of “Thou Art the Man”

The first person opening of Edgar Allan Poe’s Thou Art the Man had to go, so we went ahead and cut it. We promised an excuse for this in our last blog. Here you have it: We did it for our audience.

We adapt classic short stories primarily for modern, middle school readers, by adding illustrations. But we also slightly modify the narratives. We do both for the sake of the audience, especially for the youngest segment of our readers. And we do some of it because they, and we, are modern.

Language, both vocabulary and the written ordering of words, changes over time. And the trend has always been towards simplification. We make minor changes to narratives with that in mind. 

However, in the case of Thou Art the Man, we also eliminated the story’s opening paragraph. And that opening paragraph immediately identified the story’s point-of-view. We made the compromise to accomplish two other goals we have in serving our primary audience. First, we wanted to get this story off to a faster start. Modern young readers, and even older readers like ourselves, have gotten used to, and even pretty much demand stories that get off to a fast start. We modern folks live in a fast age. We quickly grow impatient with great authors when they warm up their writing chops with material mostly extraneous to the timeless stories they tell . 

But we also want to eliminate confusion where it exists, and there are confusing references in the opening paragraph of this story. We don’t rank ourselves as extremely thoughtful, but we are experienced readers, and we had trouble understanding where Poe was headed in the first paragraph. We presume middle-school readers would as well. Finally, the first paragraph didn’t do anything to advance the story, so we cut it without fear we’d be causing harm.

 In our next blog, we will continue to discuss this story’s point-of-view. Forewarning—we didn’t change the narrator’s point of view in Thou Art the Man. We only delayed letting the reader know a first-person narrator was telling it. Right from the beginning of the story until near the end, it was Mr. Poe who hid the actual identity of the narrator. That was his choice, not ours, and we are too ordinary to question Mr. Poe. Besides, we think it works fine.

Once again, until we publish Poe Illustrated, enjoy an illustration from Thou Art the Man.

Hands on the murder suspect in Thou Art the Man

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