EN 332 Detective Fiction
December 4, 2010
The Murders in the Rue Morgue – a Story with Many Firsts
“The Murders in the Rue Morgue” is unquestionably the first detective fiction story. This without a doubt makes Edgar Allan Poe the father of detective crime. Poe was gifted at writing the genre of horror, perhaps because as some say, his life had been “marred by tragedy from an early age”(online literature). He certainly did have a knack for telling interesting and imaginative tales, which was highlighted by his obsession with death and violence in his stories. Poe was able to keep his readers interested in his stories by not only writing of death and violence but also giving them mystery and a puzzle to solve. Besides being the first detective story, “The Rue Morgue” is a story full of firsts; it tells the first locked room mystery in which the crime takes place inside a room that has been locked from the inside with no other way in or out and the main character is the first fictional detective. These types of mysteries are certain to keep a reader’s interest because it seems that there is no logical explanation. “The Rue Morgue” uses both the locked room mystery aspect and keeping the answers until the very end as interest keepers and blends them together to make one fine mystery.
This story is just as much about a mystery as it is about deductive reasoning. The characters of C. Auguste Dupin and the narrator, who is his housemate, live very secluded lives. It appears that they do not go out at all during the day but do go and entertain themselves by walking the streets of Paris at night. At an early point in the story the two men are walking when Dupin breaks the silence by a single sentence commenting on the very thoughts of his partner. This small mystery intrigues Dupin’s companion and the reader. Dupin makes his rationalization seem “so simple that we all feel that we are capable of it.”(Watt, “Overview”). The reader is compelled to believe that Dupin has an extraordinary power of insight the way he reasons his way to conclusions. He is not unlike Sherlock Holmes in this respect. Holmes is known for his rationalizations and reasoning as well as his eclectic lifestyle and odd habits just as Dupin is. As a matter of fact it is said that Sir Arthur Canon Doyle was inspired by Poe and his Sherlock Holmes character is based on his detective, C. Auguste Dupin (Mansfield-Kelly, Marchino, 82)
Unlike Holmes, Dupin is not a detective by profession; rather he is an amateur detective. He takes on the case of the murders in the Rue Morgue not for money but for his own amusement after reading about it in the paper. He feels that he is more competent than the police and that he can solve the crime before they can. He uses his analytical skills to deduce the solution, which we are enlightened by at the end of the story. He is keenly observant taking in every little detail of the house on the inside and outside. Upon examining the windows in the bedroom Dupin had reasoned that the means of the murderers escape had to have been through either of the windows. As he examined more closely he discovered that they were nailed shut, or where they? One window had in fact had a nail in it, which would limit its usefulness as an escape. The other window however had been “fixed” so that it could be opened by a spring and when closed again the spring would catch and the window would look as though it was nailed shut as well.
Dupin comes to the conclusion that the murdered is an orangutan because of his obsession with literature and books. He is familiar with the description of the orangutan from Baron Georges Cuvier who describes the animal and it’s strength. By knowing these characteristics he is then able to compare the devastation of the two bodies with the “wild ferocity” (76) of the beast. This all of course is just a wild guess on Dupin’s part until he places an...