Evolution of Detective Fiction

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Twenty-first century detective stories are blooming with action, conflict, mystery and so on. But this is only recent development. There is a lot more to it than most people think. From a French man named Vidocq to the creation of modern detective fiction by Edgar Allan Poe, until today’s development of detective stories and its characters. So what made Poe such an important figure in detective fiction history, and in what way did his creation develop after his death? In my study I will try to answer these questions to the best of my capabilities.

People started to take interest in crime stories in the early 1800, caused by their fascination and fear of crime. It was the town folks that started to romanticize criminals, as well those who stood up against them: “The first writing on urban crime pretended to be documentary, but it was filled with archetypes and plots from preceding fiction, particularly the gothic novel” (Marling 2). The detective as a figure first saw light in the early nineteenth century. Eugène François Vidocq who is considered to be the father of modern criminology and the first private detective wrote Memoirs of Vidocq which inspired writers like Viktor Hugo’s Les Misérables and Honoré de Balzac’s Le Pere Goriot in creating first of many detective figures based on Vidocq. Of course there were other writers, not just crime stories but novels as well, to whom Vidocq served as an inspiration. A good example to this is Charles Dickens novel Great Expectations. The main and most important difference between the earlier mentioned crime stories and Poe’s Murders in the Rue Morgue is that they didn’t construct their story/case around the detectives: “Before Poe, the early crime stories did not revolve around the individual detective “(freewebs editor 3). Crime Fiction is essentially about the solving of a crime, usually a mystery of murder. Crime Fiction texts question what it is to be human and raise questions about identity. (freewebs editor 1) When Poe created Dupin, most of his very own traits were given to the character. Since Poe himself didn’t believe in the supernatural neither did Dupin, giving him a far more realistic view of things, which I believe essentially gave the detective a big step ahead of others when solving a case. In “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” Poe introduces three of the basic motifs of detective fiction. First is the wrongly suspected man, secondly the crime in the closed room and finally the solution by unexpected means. It is also important to note the Dupin outsmarts the police by solving the case, which is an element that if not all but certainly most detective storie’s adopted. In The Purloined Letter the reader gets to know another favored element of the detective fiction: recovery and safe keeping of the “document(s)” needed to ensure the safety of one or more important individuals. In order to make sure Dupin succeeds in this task, Poe introduces yet again important motifs known to the detective fiction: the outsmarting\deceiving of other genius minds, the finding of the evidence in the most obvious place and the use of disguise. Although the element of disguise might not seem so evident at first reading, I am most certain that the use of the green spectacles in order to deceive D—serves as an early version of using clothing or other accessories in order to misguide another character. In the third story of Dupin, The Mystery of Marie Rogêt, Poe introduces the method of recreating a crime by recollecting and putting together newspaper reports of the same case. While Poe’s greatest detective fiction will be the one’s presenting Dupin, we must take a step in taking in to notice Poe’s other two works Thou Art the Man and The Gold Bug readers are familiarized with new motifs from the repertory of detective fiction: the criminals spirit breaks and confesses when he is faced with the enormity of his crime, misguidance by following the wrong clues and the climaxing moment when...
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