Edgar Allen Poe\'s: "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