Literary Critique of "Murders at the Rue Morgue" : LUSENET : The Work of Edgar Allan Poe : One Thread

I need some help with this story. Any information about recources on how this story helped with modern detective genre or just understanding the story as a whole would be great. Thanks,


-- Anonymous, November 29, 1999


This is a short summary of the story and a literary analyse. I hope this information will be helpful. ------------------------- "Genre:Short Story.

Setting:Paris, France.

Main Characters:The two main characters of the story are the narrator and Monsieur C. Auguste Dupin. The narrator and Dupin originally meet in a library. They discover they have much in common, not the least of which is an appreciation of human intellect. Once acquainted, they become roommates and spend much of their time in isolation, meditating on and discussing various topics of interest.

Summary: The narrator begins with a discussion of analytical ability of the human mind, which is then illustrated by the story of the murders in the Rue Morgue. The narrator and Dupin happen upon a newspaper account of the murders. A young woman and her mother were found murdered at their residence. Their screams had been heard by neighbors, as were two other voices--one of a Frenchman and another which was unidentifiable. A group of neighbors went to investigate, entering through the only unlocked entrance, and found the two women dead. There was no sign of the murderer or any evident escape route by which he may have fled. The police are entirely baffled by the peculiarity of the crime. Though evidence is weak, the police arrest one Adolphe Le Bon, who happens to have once done a favor for Dupin. Monsieur Dupin decides to look into the case out of a combined sense of moral obligation, and simple intrigue brought about by the unusual circumstances of the case. The narrator joins Dupin in an examination of the crime scene, during which Dupin closely scrutinizes everything. Largely, the remainder of the story consists of a journey into the thought processes of Monsieur Dupin as he deciphers the facts, discovers new evidence, and solves the mysterious crime."

This information was taken from the following site: ------------------------------------------------------------


Edgar Allan Poe's account of Dupin's first case is an explicit illustration of art imitating the artist. Poe's fascination with re- creation and re-construction drives the plot of "The Murders in the Rue Morgue," providing the scientific basis for Dupin's struggle against the unknown. Indeed, the detective's inductive tendencies can be interpreted as a direct transplantation of the author's obsessively precise methodology. Poe's essay, "The Philosophy of Composition," along with his three Dupin short stories, "seem to have sprung from a similar authorial impulse: the desire to demystify the process of composition" (Beegel 1). For Poe, "the backstage world" holds an immense amount of appeal - it has "a colorful fascination of its own, one which rivals the finished production in interest" (Beegel 2). In a similar manner, the inner workings of criminal thought and cunning induction are as fascinating as the bare facts of the case, if not more so. "The Dupin mysteries, which uncover spectacular and puzzling criminal machinations, have the special appeal to curiosity and reverence characteristic of a visit behind- the-scenes" (Beegel 2). Even the structure of the story itself takes advantage of the subject matter. Poe's unique brand of narration "seems purposely crafted for the fictional illustration of the author's literary theories. The tale of detection is an inverted short story, not only written backwards... but presented backwards as well" (Beegel 2). Since the actual murders take place early in the chronological unfolding of the tale, the majority of the subsequent action is devoted to piecing together the circumstances and events leading up to the beginning of the story. "The Dupin mysteries, unlike conventional short stories, commence rather than conclude with a climatic event" (Beegel 2), and "the whole method of the narrative tends to be close to that of induction" (Nygaard 231). This model has since become the standard for detective literature, influencing the works of all of Poe's successors, from Arthur Conan Doyle to John Grisham. Poe's detective stories have been described as "ratiocinative tales" - a fitting name, considering the emphasis placed on methodical reasoning and logic by Dupin. In tales such as these, the primary concern of the plot is "ascertaining truth," and the usual means of obtaining the truth is "through a complex and mysterious process combining intuitive logic, astute observation and perspicacious inference" (Engel 83). Oddly enough, the implication here is that the crime itself is secondary to the efforts taken to solve it. In effect, the detective becomes a storyteller who must create a narrative to fit the facts: The main interest of a detective story is not the crime itself, but the detective's creation of a story, his unfolding of the circumstances which led to the crime, and his uncovering of the persons involved and their motives. The highly literary process of dénouement replaces action as the central drama of Poe's tales of detection. The detective-artist, creating plot and character, giving meaning to crime-experience, is the hero of this drama." (Beegel 2) sake of strengthening his case: "This may be the practice in law, but it is not the usage of reason. My ultimate object is only the truth" (Poe 420). And yet, his motivation for pursuing these mysterious crimes is not entirely derived from such lofty intentions. He makes it blatantly clear that he derives a certain amount of satisfaction - even pleasure - in the unraveling of a difficult case. The narrator picks up on this hedonistic element in the introduction to the story, in which he explains: "As the strong man exults in his physical ability, delighting in such exercises as call his muscles into action, so glories the analyst in that moral activity which disentangles" (Poe 397). Dupin clearly delights in the exercise of his mental powers - the enthusiasm with which he displays during the "mind-reading" conveys an ostentatious flair, and his motivation for investigating a pair of grisly murders is the hope that "an inquiry will afford us amusement" (412). Additionally, Dupin displays a stubborn competitive spirit - he sees the struggle to solve a mystery as a struggle against an unseen opponent, and he directs his keen observation skills are towards one goal: the discovery of on opponent's weakness. "The analyst throws himself into the spirit of this opponent, identifies himself therewith, and not unfrequently sees thus, at a glance, the sole methods (sometimes indeed absurdly simple ones) by which he may seduce into error or hurry into miscalculation" (Poe 398). Even in the end, when the case has been solved and credit has been assigned, Dupin takes a final indignant jab at his rival, the police Prefect: "I am satisfied with having defeated him in his own castle" (Poe 431). The conflict within Dupin's character can, to a certain extent, be extended to encompass Poe. Because of his love of "duplicity, obfuscation, and manipulation," readers have learned that "they cannot trust Poe, that they must approach his narratives warily and with suspicion" (Nygaard 223). The danger lies in taking his narrators at face value - as we have seen with Dupin, "the self- absorbed, obsessed figures through whom he relates his tales are notoriously unreliable in their perceptions and interpretations of events" (Nygaard). Even the seemingly rational facts of Dupin's scientific reasoning are looked upon with suspicion, for "despite the aura of cool objectivity and logical rigor that surrounds his analyses... he is still somehow having us on, trying to pull the wool over our eyes" (Nygaard 224). Some critics point to the similarity between Dupin's name and the word "duping," and insist that the introduction to "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" contains "an implicit challenge to the reader to prove himself capable of analysis, that is, to be skeptical of superficial truths and alive to the metaphorical potential of language" (Martin 42). One final aspect of Poe's fiction worth noting here is the author's use of physical enclosure as a means of heightening mood and suspense. This tool is used throughout Poe's writing, from the crypt in "The Fall of the House of Usher" to the chamber in "The Tell-Tale Heart." These physical enclosures are "distinctly sealed off from the rest of the setting so that what takes place in it is set apart, or 'insulated,' from events in the world outside" (Engel 83). In "The Murders in the Rue Morgue," the enclosure is Dupin's isolated chamber. The effect is to amplify the intensity of his mental powers, for "both literal enclosures and enclosures on the level of image and metaphor isolate and concentrate the action, intensify the mystery and thus enhance the ratiocinative process of crime solving" (Engel 83). The enclosures also delineate a sense of distance between Dupin and the rest of the society, both in terms of physical distance and his intellectual superiority. There is irony in this construction as well - for the one person most capable of banishing mystery is himself shrouded in mystery."

This is from: _magnifying_glass/Pages/litanalysismurder.htm

------------------------------------------------------------- "The Mysteries:

By contrast, the sheer amount of mystery and science fiction Poe wrote is usually not acknowledged. Poe's mysteries include not only "The Gold-Bug" and the three Dupin tales, but also, "Thou Art The Man" and "The Oblong Box". In addition, both "The Spectacles", and "The System of Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether" share much of the form of mystery tales, with surprise solutions hinted at through clues in the stories, and many scenes and incidents having two meanings, one surface, one hidden and revealed at the end, even though neither has a detective or an explicit puzzle to solve. "Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether" could be a formal model for Melville's mystery tale "Benito Cereno", although I know of no explicit evidence that Melville actually read Poe's tale. Most of Poe's mystery stories were written during a relatively short period, 1841 - 1844. "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" (1841) is the most important of Poe's mystery works. It is the first, and the one that set the form of not only Poe's other stories, but of all subsequent mystery fiction. "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" seems like a direct ancestor of Doyle's Sherlock Holmes tales. The relationship of Holmes and Watson seems similar to that of Dupin and the narrator. They meet and move in with each other, just as in A Study in Scarlet. And the narrator deeply admires Dupin, just like Watson and Holmes. The storytelling style also seems close to Doyle. The way in which Dupin announces he has a visitor coming, whom they must capture to solve the mystery, is very close to Doyle's climaxes. The emphasis on Dupin's intellect, and the use of reasoning and deduction to solve the mystery, anticipate both Doyle and detective fiction as a whole. Dupin's explanations of how he solved the case seem very similar to those of Holmes.

and this is from: --------------------------------------------------------------


-- Anonymous, November 27, 2002

Moderation questions? read the FAQ