Friday, February 11, 2011

C. Auguste Dupin

Edgar Allan Poe may not have realized when he wrote Murders in the Rue Morgue that he was giving birth to the genre of detective fiction, setting the stage for everything that was to come, from Sherlock Holmes to Dr. Fell to Sam Spade to Lovejoy. Even the superhero genre could be said, without making too far of a stretch, to have its roots in Poe's mentally-gifted crime-solver C. Auguste Dupin.

Dupin used what he called the process of ratiocination to make his deductions; this entails combining his superhuman intellect with his lucid imagination. By imagination, he seems to go beyond figuratively trying to put himself in the mind of the criminal, but rather almost literally doing so. Sometimes he appears able to supernaturally read the mind of his unnammed companion, who narrates all three of the Dupin stories. (The other two are The Mystery of Marie Rogêt and The Purloined Letter.)

The similarity between the ultra-logical Dupin and his anonymous friend to Sherlock Holmes and Watson are uncanny. The two live together in a flat in Paris, having met by some extreme synchroniciy in which they both arrived at an obscure library in search of an obscure book at the exact same time.

In Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's very first Sherlock Holmes story, A Study in Scarlet (1887), Doctor Watson actually compares Holmes to Dupin, to which Holmes replies: "No doubt you think you are complimenting me... In my opinion, Dupin was a very inferior fellow... He had some analytical genius, no doubt; but he was by no means such a phenomenon as Poe appears to imagine".

The 1951 film The Man With A Cloak, set in 1848, features Dupin as a character but it is ultimately revealed that Dupin is Edgar Allan Poe himself. He also made an appearance in Alan Moore's 1999 comic book League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Volume I.

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