Poe's last detective story, “‘Thou Art the Man,’” has received little attention and less praise. In this ingenious tale, however, Poe revises his own pioneering narrative technique by making the narrator—who faithfully records the actions and words of the character investigating the crime—turn out to be himself the detective. Charley Goodfellow, the supposed investigator, is actually the murderer, who uses his considerable oratorical skills to persuade an entire town to convict the wrong man. Given this emphasis on unreliable narration and deceptive oratory, it seems appropriate to read Poe's satirical detective story in the context of public speech during the Jacksonian period, including political rhetoric, abolitionist discourse, theatrical performance, and ventriloquism. In the tale's climactic scene, the narrator publicly accuses Goodfellow by throwing his voice, making it seem that the murdered man's corpse has identified him as the killer by uttering the title phrase aloud. That phrase alludes to Nathan's striking indictment of King David in the Bible, which in the early nineteenth century was extolled as a model of successful rhetoric and often imitated in abolitionist writing, including a passage from Babbage's Ninth Bridgewater Treatise that Poe read before writing his story. The narrator of “‘Thou Art the Man’” not only quotes Nathan's speech but also imitates his rhetorical strategy. Poe repeats both the speech and the strategy, in turn, in constructing his tale. “‘Thou Art the Man’” demonstrates that artful rhetoric ultimately leads to truth, even in an atmosphere of bullying, chicanery, spurious accusation, and deliberate falsehood.

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