Edgar Allan Poe wrote his one novel—an account of an extraordinary voyage to the South Seas—partly in deference to the public’s taste for longer fiction. Poe's other works consisted entirely of short stories and poems.
The first two chapters of The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym appeared in the Southern Literary Messenger in 1837. Poe published the novel the next year with additional content.
Poe plays with conventions in The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym. Initially, hope and anticipation for adventure appeals to the audience. Poe focuses on the connection between betrayal and death.
Poe strictly controlled the publication of his work, but made no reference to Pym in his letters or other writings during the period between June, 1837 and July, 1838, the publication dates. Poe's single reference to Pym is to call it a "silly book."
Arthur Gordon Pym stows away aboard a whaling ship, Grampus, which becomes wrecked later in the novel. After numerous trials, Pym is rescued by another ship, the Jane Guy.
In 1838, Edgar Allan Poe was a well known and popular American writer. Despite his popularity, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket was not a commercial success, as a letter from the firm of Harper and Brothers to Poe asserts.
Pym was not only Poe's only novel, it conflicted with his opinions on length. He believed any work should be readable in one sitting. He said, "...if two sittings be required, the affairs of the world interfere, and everything like totality is at once destroyed."
Pym was considered a marginal work by Poe until 1950. Many admirers did not know he had ever written a novel.
Betrayal plays a significant role in the novel. Every character in the text is disloyal and death often follows thier betrayal.
The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket was published by Harper and Brothers in 1838. The orginial publication contained an explanation of the publication history.