notes on e. a. poe’s murders in the rue morgue


The Murders in the Rue Morgue is a short story by Edgar Allan Poe published in 1841. and belongs to his tales of ratiocination.
C. Auguste Dupin in Paris solves the mysterious brutal murder of two women. Numerous witnesses heard a suspect, though no one agrees on what language he/she spoke, so Dupin assumes they were not hearing a human voice at all. He finds a hair at the scene of the murder that is quite unusual; “this is no human hair”, he concludes. Dupin puts an advertisement in the newspaper asking if anyone has lost an “Ourang-Outang”. The ad is answered by a sailor who comes to Dupin. The detective asks for all the information the sailor has about the murders in the Rue Morgue. The sailor reveals that he had been keeping a captive orangutan which escaped with the sailor’s shaving razor. When he followed the orangutan, it escaped by climbing a wall up to a lightning rod, and entered the apartment in the Rue Morgue through a window.
The Murders in the Rue Morgue is cited as the first detective fiction story. The character of Dupin became the prototype for many future fictional detectives, including Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot. Dupin is not a professional detective; he decides to investigate the murders in the Rue Morgue for his personal amusement. He also has a desire for truth and to prove a falsely accused man innocent. His interests are not financial and he even declines a monetary reward from the owner of the orangutan
The story established many features that would become common elements in mystery fiction: the eccentric but brilliant detective, the embarrassed police force, the first-person narration by a close personal friend. Poe also initiates the storytelling device where the detective announces his solution and then explains the reasoning leading up to it.
The Murders in the Rue Morgue (1841)
The mental features discoursed of as the analytical, are, in themselves, but little susceptible of analysis. We appreciate them only in their effects. We know of them, among other things, that they are always to their possessor, when inordinately possessed, a source of the liveliest enjoyment. As the strong man exults in his physical ability, delighting in such exercises as call his muscles into action, so glories the analyst in that moral activity which disentangles. He derives pleasure from even the most trivial occupations bringing his talent into play. He is fond of enigmas, of conundrums, of hieroglyphics; exhibiting in his solutions of each a degree of acumen which appears to the ordinary apprehension præternatural. His results, brought about by the very soul and essence of method, have, in truth, the whole air of intuition.
The faculty of re-solution is possibly much invigorated by mathematical study, and especially by that highest branch of it which, unjustly, and merely on account of its retrograde operations, has been called, as if par excellence, analysis. Yet to calculate is not in itself to analyse. A chess-player, for example, does the one without effort at the other. It follows that the game of chess, in its effects upon mental character, is greatly misunderstood. I am not now writing a treatise, but simply prefacing a somewhat peculiar narrative by observations very much at random; I will, therefore, take occasion to assert that the higher powers of the reflective intellect are more decidedly and more usefully tasked by the unostentatious game of draughts than by all the elaborate frivolity of chess. In this latter, where the pieces have different and bizarre motions, with various and variable values, what is only complex is mistaken (a not unusual error) for what is profound. The attention is here called powerfully into play. If it flag for an instant, an oversight is committed, resulting in injury or defeat. The possible moves being not only manifold but involute, the chances of such oversights are multiplied; and in nine cases out of ten it is the more concentrative rather than the more acute player who conquers. In draughts, on the contrary, where the moves are unique and have but little variation, the probabilities of inadvertence are diminished, and the mere attention being left comparatively unemployed, what advantages are obtained by either party are obtained by superior acumen. To be less abstract -Let us suppose a game of draughts where the pieces are reduced to four kings, and where, of course, no oversight is to be expected. It is obvious that here the victory can be decided (the players being at all equal) only by some recherche movement, the result of some strong exertion of the intellect. Deprived of ordinary resources, the analyst throws himself into the spirit of his opponent, identifies himself therewith, and not infrequently sees thus, at a glance, the sole methods (sometimes indeed absurdly simple ones) by which he may seduce into error or hurry into miscalculation.

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