The Logic Behind the Unseemingly Illogical Orangutan
Edgar Allan Poe's The Murders in the Rue Morgue captivates readers with its gruesome and curious tail of two murders. Through the observations of two Parisian friends, we experience the dark details of Madame and Mademoiselle L'Espanaye's demise: bloody and beaten corpses, one shoved up a fireplace and one decapitated. The Gazette des Tribunaux concludes "to this horrible mystery there is not as yet, we believe, the slightest clew" (Poe 123). Readers are left to wonder, who could have committed such a crime? How did they gain entry into the home? Why did they kill Madame L. and her daughter? The narrator and Dupin inquired along the same lines, for they ventured to the Rue Morgue to observe the murders firsthand. Readers follow (or try to, at least) Dupin's logic as he works out the crime for himself. Finally, we are to learn who the two mysterious voices were and who murdered the women. And then, orangutan. We are honestly expected to accept that an exotic animal carried out these monstrous acts? This is the result of logic and reason? However, though the murderous orangutan seems a bit out of context to us, it is quite reflective of both the Romantic and Gothic literary trends of the time period, and fit within the molds of true detective fiction. Specifically, the orangutan is a mold of the romantic and gothic, representing both uncontrollable nature and the fearful unknown. It is also a logical explanation that ties up loose ends, thus fitting within the strict formula of detective fiction.
The Romantic period that took the literary and artistic world by storm in the 18th and 19th centuries was a consequence of the French Revolution. Ideas regarding the power of nature, nationalistic pride, the expression of emotion over intellect, and the goodness of humanity were significant ideas that became popular. Poe's The Murders in the Rue Morgue was written and published during the rise of Romanticism. By...
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