It should come as no surprise to anyone that I love Edgar Allan Poe. Seems to me, though, that the reason it isn’t surprising is not because of my preferences in writing style, language, and subject matter, but rather because everybody and their mother likes Poe. It isn’t original to love Poe. That’s mostly because emo pre-teens seem to have adopted him and Jack Skelington as their own personal macabre mascots. This makes me sad. Those Hot Topic-loving adolescents sure know how to ruin a truly gothic masterpiece. Oh well.
Having admitted how big of a fan I am, I must admit that my fanship does not necessarily extend to his “detective murder mystery” attempts. This lies in part because I cannot stand his main character, Monsieur C. Auguste Dupin. Lawd, I can’t stand Dupin. He’s a pompous jackass (sorry, Mom) who unfortunately reappears in multiple short stories by Poe, including “The Purloined Letter” and “The Mystery of Marie Roget.” Poe’s nameless narrator clearly has a respectful admiration of Dupin, mostly based on his unparalleled level of intelligence and insight, but high intelligence does not, in this case, equal high likability.
However, the real reason I cannot seem to “like” this work is the same reason I don’t really like any of Poe’s “detective” works; they’re unfair. Poe’s detective stories are unlike average detective fiction in that they do not allow the reader the opportunity to solve the mystery along with the characters. Like I said, Dupin is portrayed as being remarkably observant and intelligent; however, in order to convey this level of intelligence, Poe withholds information in the initial description of the crime scene so that readers can be all the more impressed when Dupin later solves the mystery using clues we didn’t know existed. Believe me, there is nothing in Poe’s original description that would give even the slightest inclination to readers of the ultimate culprit.
I cannot truthfully say that I dislike this work, but I can’t say I’ve ever really liked it. Might I suggest some other works that better represent why Poe is one of the most famous authors in American fiction: “The Masque of the Red Death,” “Ligeia,” and “The Fall of the House of Usher,” which we will be reading in October!
I hope you all are joining our book club and will follow along on our next book, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen!