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September 21, 2006

Sam's "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" Commentary

"But, without educated thought, he erred continually by the very intensity of his investigations. He impaired his vision by holding the object too close. He might see, perhaps, one or two points with unusual clearness, but in so doing he, necessarily, lost sight of the matter as a whole." -The Murders in the Rue Morgue, Pg. 412

In the beginning of this quote, Dupin sets up a sort of a relationship between the other detective’s (Vidocq’s) errors and his intensity. Typically, we think of intensity as being of great help to an investigation but here, Dupin considers Vidocq’s sort of intensity as lacking in “educated thought” and therefore causing him to fail to solve the puzzle. As a person can not see the words on a page very well if the book is held too close to the face, Dupin argues that Vidocq’s ability to figure out what happened in a case was impaired by looking too closely at the case piece by piece, rather than stepping back. Dupin gives him credit in a sense because he recognizes that Vidocq was probably able to see some details very vividly but then goes back to his argument that it is often the big picture that really matters. I found this a little bit ironic, however, because in the end, Dupin solves the mystery of the murders by looking at the information very, very closely piece by piece and then using those pieces to put the big picture together. Perhaps he was able to get away with it where Vidocq was not because of his “educated thought” in looking at the details.

Posted by samlily at September 21, 2006 11:46 PM


This quote illustrates Dupin's self-deemed supiority over other men. He is declering that his method of investigation is best by critisizing Vidocq's methods. Dupin says, "he erred continually," and though this may have some truth, Dupin does not recognize that Vidocq may have had succusses with his particular method. Dupin's argument for his personal method is unconvinceing because it is biased and one-sided. A proper argument would have established the positives and negatives, but because Dupin does not do this, his quote reveals his eliteist character and his convictions that he is better than other people.

This passage also reveals something of the audience Poe was writing to in the 1840s. As education is an expensive investment, the greater part of people who would buy books to read were those wealthy enough to pay it. Thus it is reasonable to state that Poe is writing to an upper class, probably the elitists of society, so Poe's audience would identify with Dupin in his thinking that he is superior to others.

Posted by: lacaga at September 24, 2006 02:33 PM

As we discover from the "fruiterer" example in the beginning, Dupin is very successful in applying his reasoning backwards and using his imagination in a situation. He believes that Vidocq was not properly trained in how to employ his own reasoning when solving a crime. The criticism of Vidocq's inability to put the small elements together to form a big picture is really a criticism of the lack of "educated thought" applied by the detectives; this hinders their ability to perceive anything out of the ordinary. With Dupin's apparent belief that looking at the details too closely is what leads the police off track, the reader is left to wonder why Dupin was so concerned with details. From this quote, the reader can tell that Dupin has an elitist view of himself and his methods. Perhaps applying "educated thought" is what allows Dupin to look at the "right" details or see them from a "wider" perspective.

Posted by: romie at September 24, 2006 09:47 PM

Sam's passage made me think of similar comments made by Sherlock Holmes to Watson -- that Watson observes, but does not see, or words to that effect -- in the stories I was reading over the weekend.

Laura's and Alyssa's peer commentaries both brought up the question of elitism possibly inherent in such a view. I'm wondering if Dupin's method isn't a little bit like the method of interpretation through "close reading" that we are learning in this class. I think there are interesting similarities between Dupin's method and our "close reading" technique.

And so the question could arise in my mind: is "close reading" also elitist? After all, doesn't "close reading" presuppose that we have the leisure to engage in this practice, and have the luxury to be able to devote many hours to reading?


Posted by: bhattach at September 25, 2006 02:35 AM

Sayan's further comments:

I'm also wondering to myself what might be the analogous to "educated thought" in close reading, if we do push the analogy between "close reading" and Dupin's method of analysis.

Incidentally, in the passage chosen by Sam, the juxtaposition of "perhaps" and "necessarily" in the sentence "He might see, perhaps, one or two points with unusual clearness, but in so doing he, necessarily, lost sight of the matter as a whole." is quite interesting. Vidoccq's method is said to be succesful occasionally in identifying details ("perhaps", "one or two points"), but is claimed to never be successful in seeing the big picture.

Posted by: bhattach at October 2, 2006 11:10 PM

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