For the first time, I found Poe’s work to be completely over the top and unrealistic given its context. Unlike other Poe stories, such as “The Oval Portrait”, in which deaths occur in supernatural ways, the deaths in this story were meant to portray those of a realistic detective case. However, in the end, readers discover that the murderer is, unrealistically, a monkey. In “The Oval Portrait”, the woman dies because her husband paints her perfectly, a sign that an attractive woman cannot be immortal. This story plays with supernatural and abstract ideas such as immortal beauty and eternal legacies. On the other hand, “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” the first detective story written, urges readers to look at the story analytically and become a detective themselves. This is a much more grounded, lifelike story, however the ending is ironic when Poe expects readers believe that a giant monkey escaped his owner, climbed a pole, bust through a window, and brutally attacked two women. Describing the orangutan as having “an agility astounding, a strength superhuman, a ferocity brutal, a butchery without motive, a grotesquerie in horror absolutely alien from humanity, and a voice foreign in tone to the ears of men of many nations, and devoid of all distinct or intelligible syllabification” is simply absurd, and even the sailor says admits that he does “not expect you to believe one half (he) say(s)” and that he “would be a fool indeed if (they) did.” Clearly, while there are the themes of isolation and gloom, the perishing of women, and the attraction to the inner working of the mind, all common in Poe’s writing, “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” is different. Because the readers are engaged in a seemingly earthly and non-mystical story that suddenly ends up using an orangutan as the murderer, I felt as though there was a hint of jest and irony in the story. I believe that Poe is making fun of his own writing. Normally, Poe’s pieces are dark, dramatic, and gothic because they are supernatural or ghostly. When Poe tried to write a more realistic murder mystery, he made fun of it because it is not his style, and therefore the ending is simply ridiculous, silly, and too over the top for the realistic vibe he was going for. Poe was putting a spin on his classic writing by purposefully making the ending to the mystery and hideousness of the crime overly emphasized.
“Gives him three thousand crowns in annual fee
And his commission to employ those soldiers,
So levied as before, against the Polack,
With an entreaty, herein further shown,
That it might please you to give quiet pass
Through your dominions for this enterprise,
On such regards of safety and allowance.”
When Voltemand tells Claudius that the King of Norway requests passage through Denmark for Poland with the guarantee of safety, the King is being deceptive and plans to attack Denmark. Previously, Fortinbras went behind his uncle’s back and prepared troops to attack Denmark, rather than Poland, and if Claudius allows the Norwegians to pass through Denmark, they may attack. Voltemand, the ambassador, reports that the King of Norway gave Fortinbras “three thousand crowns in annual fee and his commission to employ those soldiers” and asks that Claudius “give quiet pass through (his) dominions for this enterprise, on such regards of safety and allowance.” This statement was made to display the King of Norway’s newfound confidence in his nephew’s trustworthiness, seen through his endowment of a large annual income, and to forge companionship between the two nations, showed through his promise of safety. While it appears as though the King of Norway was initially furious with his nephew for taking advantageous of his age and deteriorating health, his seemingly good intentioned confessions of Fortinbras’ faults to Claudius is a ploy. The King of Norway’s profession to Claudius, who would have never known Fortinbras’ plans of attack because no actions were even taken against Denmark, is his way of trying to appear credible and honest. The King of Norway is trying to gain Claudius’ trust and appear as though his newfound control of his nephew makes the Norwegians no threat to Denmark. Additionally, at this time, family honor and reputation were everything, so for the King of Norway to not only speak out so unfavorably against his own nephew, but also rebuke him, was a dramatic way to get Claudius’ attention and was used as a way to sway Claudius’ faith in them. In conclusion, the king of Norway’s confession for his nephew’s actions and plea for passage is a sham enticing Claudius to let his guard down just enough for the Norwegians to swoop in and attack Denmark.
“…but, seeing her otherwise so perfect, he found this one defect grow more and more intolerable with every moment of their untied lives. It was the fatal flaw of humanity which Nature, in one shape or another, stamps ineffaceably on all her productions, either to imply that they are temporary and finite, or that their perfection must be wrought by toil and pain. The crimson hand expressed the ineludible gripe in which mortality clutches the highest and purest of earthly mould… In this manner, selecting it as a symbol of his wife’s liability to sin, sorrow, decay, and death. Aylmer’s somber imagination was not long in rendering the birthmark a frightful object, causing him more trouble and horror than ever Georgiana’s beauty, whether of soul or sense, had given him delight.” Pg. 292
I chose this passage because I believe it is a window into not only the surface symbolism it provide through its own explanation, but as well as deeper, more veiled issue occurring within Aylmer. Stylistically, this passage’s connection between Georgiana’s birthmark and the mortality of humanity kick start our understanding of the deeper meaning of the story. I also think that this passage is written so beautifully, as it employs intensely descriptive vocabulary as well as symbolically meaningful text. Individually, I think it its clear, through the narrator’s outright explanation, that this passage connects Georgia’s flaw with the flaw of life; mortality. However as a small part of a larger story, I think that by linking Georgiana’s mark to life’s temporary nature the passage then leads us deeper and encourages us to connect Aylmer’s fear of physical imperfection with his fear of death.
Georgiana’s birthmark not only represents superficial obsession with perfection, but a more symbolic concealment of Aylmer’s intense fear of death. On a surface level of interpretation, it is clear that the theme of perfectionism runs its course through out this story. While Georgiana is woman of great beauty, her single modest, physical flaw becomes the object of Almer’s fixation. He sees her flaw as a “visible mark of earthly imperfection” and feels as though this “defect” ruins her beauty. He fails to appreciate the internal beauty of his wife, and instead focuses purely on the physical attributes of Georgiana, rather than her inner self and her deep love for him. His addiction to seeking perfection for his wife blinds him from all the good she embodies and offers. His obsession with perfection is foolish and ultimately undermines him, as his accomplishment of flawlessness, or the riddance of his wife’s birthmark, ends up killing her. The passage emphasizes the notion that perfection doesn’t exist, and so when Georgiana’s birthmark disappears and his wife is made perfect, so too does her spirit disappear, as we see that when the “sole token of human imperfect faded form her cheek, the parting breath of the now perfect woman passed into the atmosphere, and her soul, lingering a moment near her husband, took its heavenly flight.”
However, Aylmer’s concentration on Georgiana’s blemish is deeper than his foolish desire for unachievable perfection. As written in the quote above, Aylmer himself acknowledges that the birthmark was the “fatal flaw of humanity” as well the “gripe of mortality.” Here we see that Aylmer understands that imperfection symbolizes mortality; he spells this out for us. However, if we go deeper, we realize his deep fear of death. Because Aylmer sees mortality in such a visual form, it becomes the object of his attention about his wife. It scares him to see a physical reminder of mortality, especially one on someone he loves so deeply. It is made clear in the story that “he found this one defect grow more and more intolerable with every moment of their united lives.” The more days that passed during their marriage, the more he noticed and feared her mark. The more time he spent falling in love with this wife, the scarier it became for him to realize that one day the love of his life would die. Therefore, his obsession with ridding his wife of the birthmark was deeper than his search for physical perfection, but instead was a search for immortality. We are told that he believed he could make a “potion” that would enable eternal life, but really, we see that his fascination with immortality is reflected in his fascination with his wife’s birthmark. His fear of death manifests itself into the birthmark on his wife’s cheek. Therefore, in Aylmer’s mind, if he can defeat his wife’s flaw, he can defeat death.
I chose this passage because, after reading and analyzing the story, I personally thought the main essence and meaning of the story was to discover that Aylmer is not so much afraid of the birthmark on his wife’s cheek, which he understands symbolizes the temporary nature of life, but instead the deeper reality and inevitability of death.