The Murders in the Rue Morgue
by Edgar Allan Poe
The Murders in the Rue Morgue Foreignness and 'The Other' Quotes
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It was a freak of fancy in my friend (for what else shall I call it?) to be enamored of the night for her own sake; and into this bizarrerie, as into all his others, I quietly fell; giving myself up to his wild whims with a perfect abandon. […] At the first dawn of the morning we closed all the massy shutters of our old building; lighted a couple of tapers which, strongly perfumed, threw out only the ghastliest and feeblest of rays. By the aid of these we then busied our souls in dreams -- reading, writing, or conversing, until warned by the clock of the advent of the true Darkness. Then we sallied forth into the streets, arm in arm, continuing the topics of the day, or roaming far and wide until a late hour. (8)
We're going to spend most of our comments on this theme addressing the subject of nationality and the Ourang-Outang, but we also want to point out that Dupin and the narrator are creating their own nocturnal country of two. The ape has no choice about being an outsider, but these two consciously choose to exclude themselves from society. Why might outsider status benefit a logical detective like Dupin? And why does the narrator choose to follow Dupin's "wild whims with a perfect abandon"?
"That was the evidence itself," said Dupin, "but it was not the peculiarity of the evidence. You have observed nothing distinctive. Yet there was something to be observed. The witnesses, as you remarked, agreed about the gruff voice; they were here unanimous. But in regard to the shrill voice, the peculiarity is -- not that they disagreed -- but that, while an Italian, an Englishman, a Spaniard, a Hollander, and a Frenchman attempted to describe it, each one spoke of it as that of a foreigner. Each is sure that it was not the voice of one of his own countrymen. (65)
What a diverse group lives in the Quartier St. Roch. The interesting thing is here, that with such a profusion of nationalities, there's a much greater variety of testimony than there would be if "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" were set in a small town. At the same time, the technologies of circulation that allow this kind of diversity – boats, trains, etc. – also bring in a totally unexpected threat from outside: the Ourang-Outang. So it's the condition of living in the city that brings together so many people, but that also leaves them vulnerable to the unknown.
A Frenchman was cognizant of the murder. It is possible -- indeed it is far more than probable -- that he was innocent of all participation in the bloody transactions which took place. The Ourang-Outang may have escaped from him. He may have traced it to the chamber; but, under the agitating circumstances which ensued, he could never have recaptured it. It is still at large. (94)
In spite of the fact that all of these different groups are being brought together in the story, there is still a bottom line of national identity. No matter how much the sailor circulates on his Maltese ship, no matter how many Ourang-Outangs he picks up, he's still a Frenchman rather than just a man. His nationality is so marked that the narrator can hear, from his accent, that the sailor was born in Paris and raised in Neufchâtel (in northwest France).