Study Guide

The Murders in the Rue Morgue Cunning and Cleverness

By Edgar Allan Poe

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Cunning and Cleverness

In the first paragraph of the story, the narrator says that he doesn't want to "write a treatise" (i.e., an essay) about his suggestion that reason is always the better for a little imagination, and vice versa. "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" reads like an essay anyway, even though most essays dispense with murderous monkeys. The narrator and the protagonist spend a lot of time showing what kinds of intelligence are valuable, and what kinds are not (sorry, chief of police). And the narrator sets up the case of the murders in the Rue Morgue as proof that superior reasoning allows the human mind to make guesses at stuff beyond its knowledge, and then back it up with cold, hard evidence.

Questions About Cunning and Cleverness

  1. How does Dupin differentiate his own great brain from those of the police? Do you find this distinction effective? How might including the Prefect of Police as a character with his own lines change or influence the argument the story is making for reason + imagination?
  2. Dupin is two things: 1) brilliant, and 2) antisocial. Are these two character traits be related?
  3. Dupin appears dispassionate, by which we mean that he doesn't seem to feel much. After all, after Le Bon's arrest, he tells the narrator that investigating the case will be amusing, and that he owes Le Bon a favor. He doesn't seem overly concerned that someone he knows is locked up in jail. Why does reason seem to be incompatible with feeling in this story? What kinds of emotions seem to rule Dupin and the other characters?

Chew on This

Dupin distinguishes himself from the police because, while they are both analytical and cunning in their way, Dupin has the imagination to think outside of conventional assumptions.

Dupin's genius for observation is incompatible with social interaction: he uses human emotion as evidence in his chains of reasoning rather than as a means for bonding with others.

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