Why is Edgar Allan Poe known as the "Father of Modern Mystrery"?

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reserch paper on EAP. Main question I can't find is why EAP is known as the father of modern mystery? please help.

-- Anonymous, November 05, 2000



Generally speaking, the genre of fantasy most referred to as mystery is almost as old as fiction itself. While Edgar Allan Poe did not formulate this particular species of fiction, he was clearly the one that recognized its tired premise and inherent shortcomings as well as its potential.

Most tales of the period that dealt with discernment or evidential discovery prior to Poe's influence read much like the usual analytical techniques accomplished through the application of inductive reasoning. This technique calls for a conclusion based on inferences suggested by particular general occurrences and can result in errors of judgement because of the inherent biases of human experience. It is a process of examination based on the observance of general principles. That is to say that conclusions of truth are based on observations of general truths. Effectively, if you observe X to be true, then you may conclude that X will always be true. Unfortunately, 'always' is an absolute and general observations are not. Therefore, at best, inductive reasoning leaves you with a probability of truth or "theory".

On the other hand, deductive reasoning is the process of concluding that something must be true because it is a singular representation of a general principle that is known to be true. If you observe or know X to be true, then X should demonstrate to be true in all cases and can be tested. Unlike inductive analysis, deductive reasoning allows conclusions to be drawn through the elimination of probabilities to a provable certainty. That is to say, if it can be demonstrated, X can be brought to a logical certainty. Poe referred to Dupin's analytical methods as 'ratiocination' and Webster defines this as: "The process of exact thinking" or "A reasoned train of thought".

Writing from the perspective of inductive reasoning can place significant burdens on the author to maintain interest, impart surprise, instill anticipation and may make it difficult to sustain readership over time. It also tends to diminish the variations of premise because of the polarized approach to solution of an unknown. Poe recognized that a varied approach to a practical conclusion based on the more discriminating inferences of deductive reasoning and, especially, his introduction of human intuition added to the anticipation and the thrill of analytical processes. Poe's fondness for mysteries was evident in his interest in cryptography as well as solving conundrums and puzzles. He once challenged the public and offered a prize if anyone sent him a puzzle he could not solve. (The public failed!)

In Poe's mystery stories, he first determines a conclusion and then builds the events and circumstances to support that conclusion. In effect, he develops the answer before the question and then arranges questions that add to the thrill of solution. Add to this a character such as C. Auguste Dupin, a man of brilliance and amazing intuitive faculties and the story begins to write itself. Poe's use of a narrator provides distance and adds to the plausibility of Dupin's actions and his amazing attributes. We believe him to be brilliant because the narrator, Dupin's friend and companion tells us that he is brilliant and confirms this through detailed descriptions of his amazing talents. Conscious of the public appeal toward eccentric behavior, Poe adds some quirkiness to Dupin's character by representing this hero as having contempt for, but maintaining a measured tolerance for Paris police investigative methods.

These principles have influenced mystery writers for decades and today, the Mystery Writers of America offer the annual Edgar Award to the author of best mystery or detective fiction novel. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of the Sherlock Holmes mystery series once asked, "Where was the detective story until Poe breathed the breath of life into it?"


-- Anonymous, November 09, 2000

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