Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 265
The first of three of Poe’s tales involving Dupin, “THE MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE” is set in Paris, primarily on the fictional Rue Morgue. Poe begins the story with some observations on logical analysis by analogy to games such as chess and checkers; he continues the theme by having Dupin display his thought processes, which have the “air of intuition,” as he appears to read the narrator’s mind while they talk. This long introductory passage with its numerous allusions and obscure references prepares readers for Dupin’s solution to the murders which confound the Parisian gendarmes.
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Dupin and the narrator first learn from an evening newspaper of the atrocity, the murders of Madame L’Espanaye and her daughter Camille. Newspaper accounts the next day carry depositions by acquaintances of the victims and people in the vicinity where the crime took place; these conflicting accounts and the absence of evidence lead the narrator and the police to consider the crime insolvable.
Dupin, however, places a cryptic advertisement in a newspaper after having inspected the house where the woman and her daughter died. When a sailor in search of a missing orangutan responds to the newspaper advertisement, Dupin has his solution to the murders. Then, for the benefit of the perplexed narrator, the police, and the reader, he explains the clues that led him to the solution.
Dupin’s analytic method of solving the crime has made the tale a classic in the detective-mystery genre. As the first detective in fiction, Dupin is the prototype of Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous sleuth, Sherlock Holmes.
Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 251
Inasmuch as Poe uses this story to define and extend his arguments about the application of rational analysis to the whole of problem solving, whether it be draughts or whist or murder, there are long expository and often tediously constructed passages in this tale. Moreover, the characterization of Dupin as a mysterious and brilliant outsider leads Poe to dot his story with words and phrases from French and Latin and with several classical allusions. Further, the use of the first-person narrator allows the reader to know only what the narrator knows about Dupin and does not permit a view of Dupin’s psyche.
The somewhat stilted style of the expository passages in the story notwithstanding, the basic technique that Poe used has become the standard for the genre of detective fiction: the discovery of the scene of a crime; the visit to the scene by the detective; the collection of information that the police have overlooked; the discovery of the culprit as a result of the application of reason to the situation; and the final confrontation between the detective and the person or persons responsible for the crime. This pattern is now so familiar to readers that it is sometimes difficult to realize that it was Poe who created the formula less than a century and a half ago. Monsieur Dupin is the prototype of the gifted amateur detective. Arrogant, at home in the world of books and facts, he triumphs over evildoers whose machinations have stumped the best police minds.
Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 139
The story is set in the city of Paris, France, in the mid-nineteenth century. The particularly brutal murders of a woman and her daughter have stumped the police. A young man of noble birth but of diminished financial means, Auguste Dupin decides after reading about the crime in the newspapers that he can solve what the police cannot. As a result, the physical setting of the story is less important than its mental setting, the mind of Dupin. There is little overt action in the story; the details of the crime itself are all derived from newspaper accounts. The solution of the crime requires no overt action, but, as has become the tradition of the detective story, is an armchair process whereby the detective recounts the events of the crime as he has deduced them from the available clues.
Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 239
Poe gained great recognition in the early 1840s for his creation of a type of story that has grown in popularity ever since — the detective story, or tale of ratiocination, which features an amateur sleuth who, by his superior deductive abilities, outsmarts criminals and outclasses the police. Such stories as "Murders in the Rue Morgue" and "The Mystery of Marie Roget" (1842-1843) created a small sensation in America when they were first published. "The Purloined Letter" (1844), the third and final story in the Dupin series, has been the subject of a great deal of critical analysis since its publication as a model of ironic and tightly-structured plot.
"Murders in the Rue Morgue," is the most popular of the three because it combines horrifying, inexplicable events with astonishing feats of deductive reasoning. The narrator, the forerunner of Dr. Watson of the Sherlock Holmes stories, meets Auguste Dupin in this story and very early recognizes that he has a double personality, a Bi-Part soul. Dupin is simultaneously wildly imaginative and coldly analytical. The reader's first view of his deductive ability occurs when Dupin seems to read his companion's mind by responding to something that the narrator had only been thinking. When Dupin explains the elaborate method whereby he followed the narrator's thought processes by noticing small details and associating them, Poe begins a long history of fictional detectives who take great pleasure in recounting the means by which they solve mysteries.
Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 266
Although Poe is credited with the creation of the detective story and the character type known as the amateur sleuth, Auguste Dupin and his ratiocinative ability did not spring from nowhere. Probably the two most obvious sources are Voltaire's Zadig (1748) and Eugene Francois Vidocq's Memoirs of Vidocq, Principal Agent of the French Police (1828-1829). Poe probably knew the story of Zadig's being able to deduce the description of the King's horse and the Queen's dog by examining tracks left on the ground and hair left on bushes. He also mentions Vidocq, the first real-life detective, in "Murders of the Rue Morgue" as a "good guesser."
However, Poe's creation of the ratio-cinative story also derives from broader and more basic interests and sources. In several of his most famous critical essays, such as his 1842 review of Nathaniel Hawthorne's Twice-Told Tales (1837) and his theoretical articles, "Philosophy of Composition" (1846) and "The Poetic Principle" (1848), Poe discusses his own aesthetic theory. He maintains that in a literary work every detail should contribute to the overall effect. This theory is appropriate for the creator of the detective story since every detail, even the most seemingly minor, may be a clue to the solutions of the story's central mystery.
Poe was familiar with gothic stories, which were often based on the concept of a hidden sin and filled with mysterious and unexplained events. Like the detective story, they moved inexorably toward a denouement that would explain these puzzles. The early English gothic novel, Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto (1764), with its secret guilt and cryptic clues, was a precursor of the detective story.
Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 226
Buranelli, Vincent. Edgar Allan Poe. New York: Twayne, 1961. This is a basic introduction to Poe's works, focusing primarily on his fictional and poetic themes.
Carlson, Eric W., ed. The Recognition of Edgar Allan Poe. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1966. This is an invaluable collection of the best known and most influential essays on Poe and his work.
Davidson, Edward H. Poe: A Critical Study. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1957. One of the most intellectually powerful and thus one of the most influential studies of Poe, this book created a new respect for his work.
Hoffmann, Daniel. PoePoePoePoePoePoePoe. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1972. Although this is a highly personal and idiosyncratic consideration of Poe, it is worth reading as a psychological study of his tales.
Quinn, Arthur Hobson. Edgar Allan Poe: A Critical Biography. New York: Appleton-Century Crofts, 1941. This is the most authoritative and most trustworthy biography of Poe.
Thompson, G. R. Poe's Fiction: Romantic Irony in the Gothic Tales. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1973. An important study of Poe's use of romantic irony in his tales to create hoaxes, this work represents a new approach to Poe's fiction.
Thomas, Dwight, and David Jackson, eds. The Poe Log. Boston: G.K. Hall, 1987. This is the most basic biographical source for information about Poe. It includes thousands of documents and notes about his life on an almost day-to-day basis.
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Burluck, Michael L. Grim Phantasms: Fear in Poe’s Short Fiction. New York: Garland, 1993.
Hoffman, Daniel. Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1998.
Hutchisson, James M. Poe. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2005.
Irwin, John T. The Mystery to a Solution: Poe, Borges, and the Analytical Detective Story. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994.
Kennedy, J. Gerald. A Historical Guide to Edgar Allan Poe. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.
May, Charles E. Edgar Allan Poe: A Study of the Short Fiction. Boston: Twayne, 1991.
Peeples, Scott. Edgar Allan Poe Revisited. New York: Twayne, 1998.
Quinn, Arthur Hobson. Edgar Allan Poe: A Critical Biography. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998.
Silverman, Kenneth. Edgar A. Poe: Mournful and Never-Ending Remembrance. New York: HarperCollins, 1991.
Sova, Dawn B. Edgar Allan Poe, A to Z. New York: Facts On File, 2001.
Whalen, Terence. Edgar Allan Poe and the Masses: The Political Economy of Literature in Antebellum America. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1999.