The Murders in the Rue Morgue by Edgar Allan Poe: Summary, Characters & Analysis

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  • 0:01 The Detective Story Formula
  • 0:32 Plot Overview
  • 2:56 Characters
  • 3:40 Analysis
  • 4:19 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jacob Erickson

Jacob has his master's in English and has taught multiple levels of literature and composition, including junior high, college, and graduate students.

This lesson will explore Edgar Allan Poe's short story titled 'The Murders in the Rue Morgue.' We'll look at the story and analyze its meaning, as well as the influence the work had on later writers of detective fiction.

The Detective Story Formula

Have you ever noticed that most detective stories follow fairly predictable conventions? Think, for example, about how the brilliant detective who solves a story's mysterious crime is usually portrayed as eccentric and antisocial. Or, consider the fact that many detective stories are narrated through a close friend of the detective. As we'll see in this lesson, many of these recognizable conventions and characteristics originated from Edgar Allan Poe's ''The Murders in the Rue Morgue,'' which was published in 1841.

Plot Overview

''The Murders in the Rue Morgue'' takes place in Paris and is related by an unnamed narrator. The tale begins with a somewhat complicated discussion about the differences between those who are clever or ingenious and those who are truly analytical or rational and explains that the glory of being analytical is at the heart of the story that follows.

We learn that the speaker and a close friend of his, Monsieur C. Auguste Dupin, live a secluded life together. One evening while walking through the city, Dupin and the narrator read a story in a newspaper about the gruesome and unsolved death of Madame L'Espanaye and her daughter, Mademoiselle Camille L'Espanaye. Madame L'Espanaye's neck has been cut so deeply that her head falls off when police pick her body up, and Mademoiselle Camille L'Espanaye is found stuffed in a chimney. Although a variety of witnesses all report hearing two or more voices, none of them can agree on what language the voices were speaking. Police are baffled by the crime and, despite any conclusive evidence, arrest a man named Adolphe Le Bon.

Dupin shows little interest in the case until he learns that Le Bon, a friend of his who had done him a favor in the past, is accused of the crime. After the narrator and Dupin visit the crime scene, Dupin points out that the police have overlooked important clues, including the presence of a non-human hair and the possibility that the voice the witnesses heard might not be human. With this evidence, Dupin describes how the perpetrator is most likely an escaped orangutan. Dupin then reveals that he has already placed an advertisement in a newspaper explaining that he has found an orangutan and the owner can come collect him.

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