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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 2504

Edgar Allan Poe's “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” is prefaced by a brief quotation, from the seventeenth-century writer Sir Thomas Browne, dealing with the legends of the Sirens and of Achilles and also with matters of interpretation. This is followed by a lengthy meditation on the analytical features of the human mind. This meditation comments on the pleasures of analytical thinking and on the ways mathematical thought may invigorate such thinking. The narrator then compares and contrasts two games (chess and card-playing) at length, suggesting that card-playing involves a great deal more genuine analytical thinking than chess. In particular, an effective card-player must be a good observer of his opponents. Finally, he explains, true analysis is not mere ingenuity. The narrator then introduces a story which, he says, will be almost a commentary on the claims he has just made.

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The narrator reports that he lived in Paris for several months in a year during the 1800s—a year he does not precisely specify. During his time there he met a young man named C. Auguste Dupin, who came from a good family but who, from various causes, was not wealthy. Dupin loved books, and he and the narrator met in a Parisian bookshop and began to develop a close friendship. Eventually they decided to room together in a somewhat dilapidated house. They lived there in great privacy.

Dupin loved to walk at night, and the narrator often accompanied him. During these walks, the narrator began to notice and admire the analytical nature of Dupin’s mind. Dupin enjoyed this analytical ability and also enjoyed displaying it. Dupin boasted that he could see into the minds and hearts of most other people. The narrator felt that Dupin possessed a mind that was either excited or perhaps diseased. One night, while the two walked silently through the streets of Paris and after they had not spoken for fifteen minutes, Dupin surprised the narrator by suddenly telling him exactly what the narrator had just been thinking. The narrator was astonished by this feat. He was even more astonished when Dupin patiently explained precisely how, by using analytical reasoning, he had painstakingly come to such a startlingly precise conclusion.

One evening, as Dupin and the narrator were perusing a newspaper, they came across an extremely detailed account of shocking murders that had recently occurred in a house on a street called the Rue Morgue. The murders had been preceded by loud shrieking. A crowd, accompanied by police, had broken through the gate of the house from which the shrieking had come, only to discover the dead bodies of a woman named Madame L’Espanaye and her daughter, Mademoiselle Camille L’Espanaye. However, before the crowd was able to get into the room where the murders had occurred, they heard two voices apparently arguing. Unfortunately, by the time the crowd entered the women’s rooms, the voices had fallen silent. Inside the apartment, they discovered a chaotic scene. Furniture had been moved; a bloody razor lay on a chair; bloody gray human hair was visible, apparently ripped from someone’s head; valuables were scattered on the floor; and a small safe was found unlocked and open.

The older woman was nowhere to be seen, but the body of her daughter was discovered shoved far up into the chimney, with her head pointed downward. The corpse was badly bruised and scratched, and the marks of fingers on her neck indicated that the daughter had died from strangulation. Meanwhile, the corpse of the old lady was found in the small back yard. When her body was lifted, her head fell off, and indeed both the head and the body had been horribly mutilated. The newspaper report ended by announcing that the murders remained a complete mystery.

The next day, the newspaper reported a mass...

(The entire section contains 2504 words.)

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