The Murders in the Rue Morgue

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"The Murders in the Rue Morgue" is a short story by Edgar Allan Poe published in Graham's Magazine in 1841. It has been claimed as the first detective story;[1][2] Poe referred to it as one of his "tales of ratiocination".[1] Similar works predate Poe's stories, including Das Fräulein von Scuderi (1819) by E.T.A. Hoffmann[3] and Zadig (1748) by Voltaire.[4]

C. Auguste Dupin is a man in Paris who solves the mysterious brutal murder of two women. Numerous witnesses heard a suspect, though no one agrees on what language was spoken. At the murder scene, Dupin finds a hair that does not appear to be human.

As the first true detective in fiction, the Dupin character established many literary devices which would be used in future fictional detectives including Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot. Many later characters, for example, follow Poe's model of the brilliant detective, his personal friend who serves as narrator, and the final revelation being presented before the reasoning that leads up to it. Dupin himself reappears in "The Mystery of Marie Rogêt" and "The Purloined Letter".

Contents

Plot summary

The story surrounds the baffling double murder of Madame L'Espanaye and her daughter in the Rue Morgue, a fictional street in Paris. Newspaper accounts of the murder reveal that the mother's throat is so badly cut that her head is barely attached and the daughter, after being strangled, has been stuffed into the chimney. The murder occurs in an inaccessible room on the fourth floor locked from the inside. Neighbors who hear the murder give contradictory accounts, claiming they hear the murderer speaking a different language. The speech is unclear, they say, and they admit to not knowing the language they are claiming to have heard.

Paris natives Dupin and his friend, the unnamed narrator of the story, read these newspaper accounts with interest. The two live in seclusion and allow no visitors. They have cut off contact with "former associates" and venture outside only at night. "We existed within ourselves alone", the narrator explains. When a man named Adolphe Le Bon has been imprisoned though no evidence exists pointing to his guilt, Dupin is so intrigued that he offers his services to "G–", the prefect of police.

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