The Murders in the Rue Morgue

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

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.

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.