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3. “In investigations
such as we are now pursuing, it should not be so much asked ‘what
has occurred,’ as ‘what has occurred that has never occurred before.’”
In “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,”
Parisian private detective M. Auguste Dupin speaks these words to
the narrator as the two men begin to inspect the gruesome crime
scene. Dupin here sets out to explain his analytic approach to solving
crimes. He accuses the Paris police of being too shortsighted in
their investigative strategies by limiting their interest to “what
has occurred.” By Dupin’s logic, the police fail to solve the murders
in the Rue Morgue because the crimes move beyond the range of both
their experience and their imagination. Instead of pooling their
imaginative resources, the Paris police get distracted by the crime’s
gruesome elements. According to Dupin, while the best police minds
can be, at times, ingenious, they often fail to be adequately creative.
Dupin distinguishes himself from the established police
order in two ways. First, he approaches the ghastly violence of
the scene dispassionately, treating it as a mathematical study.
He is thus able to avoid becoming overwhelmed by the scene’s emotional
trauma. Second, Dupin expands the methodological reach of crime-solving
by relying upon intuition and analysis. Not only does Dupin gather
evidence from the crime scene that has previously escaped the notice
of the police, like the window nails, but he is also able to adequately account
for details that confuse others. For example, he translates the
medical examiner’s report of the immense, almost superhuman strength
of the murderer into the possibility of a nonhuman having committed
the crime. Dupin’s effectiveness lies in his eccentric willingness
to move beyond certain standards of rationality and believability.
While his explanations piece together the disparate clues from the
crime scene in an eminently rational way, he begins with premises
that seem irrational—for example, that an animal could have committed
the crime. Dupin utilizes such controversial premises because they
privilege new modes of analysis—that is, consideration of what “has
never occurred before.”
Ace your assignments with our guide to Poe’s Short Stories!