The Nameless Narrator


 

              There are many interesting literary techniques used in Edgar Allan Poe’s short story “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” but one of the most noteworthy is Poe’s choice of narrator: why did he choose to tell the story from the point of view of Dupin’s friend and not Dupin himself? Dupin’s friend- the nameless narrator- is a significant part of the story and enhances the work in many ways.

              C. Auguste Dupin was one of the first detectives introduced to the literary world, but his character would not be as prominent today if Poe had chosen to tell the story from his point of view; the detachment we get from Dupin’s mind by means of an alternative narrator emphasizes how good of a detective he truly is. By seeing his analytical work through the eyes of another person, we see how he picks up on details in a way no one else does.  His friend, the narrator, describes his own experience at the scene of the murder; “I saw nothing beyond what had been stated in the Gazette des Tribunaux” (Poe 154). Even after Dupin asks him if he had observed anything peculiar, he says “No, nothing peculiar” (Poe 154). Poe uses the narrator and his observations of the scene (or lack thereof) to show how much more perceptive Dupin is than others who witness the same evidence. We, as readers, don’t know how Dupin picks up on the information that he does, and neither does the narrator. Poe draws a parallel between the reader and the narrator because of this; furthermore, the narrator’s appreciation and admiration of Dupin’s intellect rubs off on the reader because of this parallel. Poe’s choice in narrator enhances an already thrilling detective story by making the reader see just how remarkable Dupin’s detective work really is.

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3 comments

  1. I completely agree with your interpretation! By narrating this story from the point of view of Dupin’s friend, Poe makes Dupin’s observations and intellect seem almost superhuman. I would like to add that another thing that comes from this choice of narrator is that Poe ensures narrator reliability. If Dupin was to narrate this story, the audience would probably think that he was greatly exaggerating his own observations and many people might think that Dupin was crazy (like when people thought the governess was crazy in “The Turn of the Screw”). Not only is the idea of an ape being the culprit hard to believe, but the exactness with which Dupin was able to recount the details of the events of the murders is also hard to believe. Like you said, Poe created narrator reliability by drawing “a parallel between the reader and the narrator.”

  2. I agree that a relatable narrator who acts as a companion to the almost omnipotent detective character gives the reader a greater sense of wonder for the detective’s mental capabilities. It is very important for the audience to feel that they are just as in the dark as the narrator, and the detective is the lamp to lead them through the mystery of the story. Dr. Watson in the Sherlock Holmes tales is a prime example of this, even better than the narrator in “The Murders of the Rue Morgue.” While the audience knows very little about narrator of “The Murders of the Rue Morgue”, the character of Dr. Watson is one who is intelligent, learned, and very capable. This gives the reader a much more interesting character to journey with and makes Sherlock Holmes that much more impressive when even a man as experienced as Watson is shocked by Holmes’ knowledge and analytical abilities.

  3. I really thought your thesis was an excellent one. Posing the question of Poe’s choice of narrator into a cohesive thesis isn’t easy, but I thought you did a nice job. I agree that the reason for Poe’s choice of narrator is fueled by Poe’s desire for the reader to achieve a certain detachment from Dupin’s character. You say in your response that the reason for this is because Poe wants us to see how good of a detective Dupin truly is, but I would go a step further and say that not only does Poe want us to see Dupin’s exceptional analytic ability, but he wants to take away Dupin’s emotion. When we think of truly objective analysis, we (or at least I) automatically assume that great analysis must be free of any emotion, because emotion can lead to bias. So I think that seeing Dupin’s character though another person’s eyes truly takes away Dupin’s emotion. We don’t get Dupin’s perspective or emotions, so all we see is his analytic ability. And since Dupin shows no outward emotion, our lack of emotional attachment to him gives his powers of analysis added merit.

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