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In the stories “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” and “The
Purloined Letter,” Poe creates the genre of detective fiction and
the original expert sleuth, C. Auguste Dupin. In both “The Murders
in the Rue Morgue” and “The Purloined Letter,” Dupin works outside conventional
police methods, and he uses his distance from traditional law enforcement
to explore new ways of solving crimes. He continually argues that
the Paris police exhibit stale and unoriginal methods of analysis.
He says that the police are easily distracted by the specific facts
of the crime and are unable to provide an objective standpoint from
which to investigate. In “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” the police
cannot move beyond the gruesome nature of the double homicide. Because
they are so distracted by the mutilated and choked victims, they
do not closely inspect the windows of the apartment, which reveal
a point of entry and escape. Dupin distances himself from the emotional
aspect of the scene’s violence. Like a mathematician, he views the
crime scene as a site of calculation, and he considers the moves
of the murderer as though pitted against him in a chess game.
In “The Purloined Letter,” Dupin solves the theft of the
letter by putting himself at risk politically. Whereas the Paris
police tread lightly around the actions of Minister D——, an important
government official, Dupin ignores politics just as he ignores emotion
in the gruesome murders of the Rue Morgue. In this story, Dupin
reveals his capacity for revenge. When the Minister insulted him
in Vienna years before the crime presently in question, Dupin promised
to repay the slight. This story demonstrates that Dupin’s brilliance
is not always dispassionately mathematical. He cunningly analyzes the
external facts of the crime, but he is also motivated by his hunger for
revenge. Dupin must function as an independent detective because
his mode of investigation thrives on intuition and personal cunning,
which cannot be institutionalized in a traditional police force.
Ace your assignments with our guide to Poe’s Short Stories!