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“The Murders in the Rue Morgue” In Edgar Allen Poe’s short story, “The Murders in the Rue Morgue”, a classic detective story is played out in a seedy Paris suburb. The story begins as the narrator meets Monsieur C. Auguste Dupin, a poor but well-read young man. As they become close friends, they live together in seclusion, departing only briefly each evening to take introspective strolls along the dark Paris streets.
Soon both the reader and the narrator begin to see Dupin’s intimate knowledge of the human mind, always an underlying element in Poe’s prose. Dupin’s extraordinary observances are made by retracing a “course” of human thought until an endpoint, the thought that is presently in the subject’s head, is reached.
With this still fresh in mind, Poe gives us a mystery taken right from the local Gazette, two recent murders with questionable motives and circumstances, the search for the murderer has proved futile.
Poe’s stage is now set. The murders, of Madame and Mademoiselle L’Espanaye are then related by a series of eleven eyewitnesses, a diverse mix of occupation and culture. However, they concur on one point: all heard an indistinguishable voice (“that of a foreigner”) and one of an angered Frenchman at the scene of the crime. As the account of the last witness is registered, Dupin and the narrator decide to examine the apartment on the Rue Morgue for themselves.
The Sherlock Holmes-like protagonist does not disappoint us. Dupin assures the narrator that he knows who the culprit is, and he is indeed awaiting his arrival. After collecting evidence and careful analysis, Dupin seems to have solved the murder beyond the shadow of a doubt. The strange circumstances lead Dupin to believe that the perpetrator could not have been human but of the animal kingdom. He cites an orangutan as the killer, an escapee from a careless owner. This accounts for the grotesque methods of murder and the foreign “voice” that is heard at the scene of the crime. The angry Frenchman witnesses mentioned was the ape’s owner, who discovered his pet’s plunder after it was too late. Dupin is correct in his accusation and places an ad in the Gazette for a found orangutan.
The owner comes right to him, and the mystery is solved. “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” is a showcase of Poe’s amazing writing style, and the short story is full of rhetorical devices. Two literary devices that are evident are Poe’s creative use of point of view and gothic setting. “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” is told in the first person point of view, presumably Poe’s view, acting as a narrator. This point of view provides for a more intimate relation of the sordid tale, stating, ” I often dwelt meditatively upon the old philosophy of the Bi-Part Soul, and amused myself with the fancy of a double Dupin-the creative and the resolvent. (p. 4)” Without this personal point of view, the reader would be oblivious to Dupin’s separate personalities. This “up close and personal” view of Dupin is known because of the first person narration. Another point of view is also useful. Monsieur Dupin solves the mystery and to do so, must take on an entirely new point of view, that of the criminal. Using this technique, Dupin delves into the mind of a careless Frenchman and his pet orangutan. Poe also incorporates a gothic setting into the story. The gothic setting is absolute. Located on the Rue Morgue-“Death Street,” the title foreshadows a catastrophe. The murder scene is a grotesque setting complete with hideously dismembered bodies and severed heads.
The Paris suburb of Faubourg-St.Germain gives the mystery an aura of gloom and sets the stage for violence. The home of the pair is described as, “…a time-eaten and grotesque mansion, a style which suited the rather fantastic gloom of our common temper, long deserted through superstition into which we did not inquire, and tottering to its fall in a retired and desolate portion of the Faubourg St. Germain. (p.3)” This description certainly echoes Poe’s inclination for gothic setting, and he even goes so far to use words like grotesque and gloom. Both of these literary devices help to create an atmosphere of suspense and help further Poe’s narrative. In “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” the reader can tell this is a Romantic story because of Poe’s emphasis on the connection between human imagination and the natural world and the journey into the complex world of human emotion. Dupin serves as a predecessor of Sherlock Holmes as he successfully solves a problem by projecting himself into the thinking process of the criminal. He is able to collect and sift evidence, to screen the important from the unimportant in the conflicting testimony of bewildered or dishonest witnesses. Like many Romantic protagonists, Dupin depends upon his intellect and imagination to produce success that applies to the natural world.
For example, Dupin states, “…that he failed in the solution of this mystery is by no means that matter for wonder which he supposes it; for, in truth, our friend the [police chief] is somewhat too cunning to be profound. In his wisdom is no [underlying principle.] (p. 35)” Here, Dupin explains that the police chief could not solve the mystery because he did not use his imagination and emotion to find a connection to the natural world. Unlike Dupin, the police chief did not seek a natural world solution to a natural world problem. Poe also reveals a Romantic view as Dupin says, “…it is not our part as reasoners, to reject it on account of apparent impossibilities. It is only left for us to prove that these apparent ‘impossibilities’ are, in reality, not such.(p. 23)” Here, Dupin states that the human imagination cannot be limited by improbability when looking for solutions applying to the natural world, but must consider all possibilities, however improbable, until proven wrong. In other words, imagination and emotion should not limit, but guide the natural world. Because of this apparent connection, “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” is a true reflection of Romanticism.
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