Thursday, July 9, 2009


Brenda Gonzalez
Eng 170W

Literature is an endless array of opinions and viewpoints written into a beautiful language of stories. The purpose of Karl Marx’s literary theory is purely one of socio-economic and political conception. The beauty found in such analysis is that it could be applied to a text it would never otherwise been imagined pertaining to. Edgar Allan Poe is famed for his true talents in writing wondrous fiction filled with symbolism and refreshing characters such as “The Murders in the Rue Morgue”(1841).
Dupin, the main character is an affluent, intellectual Frenchman – previously an aristocrat – with a serious knack for analysis, reexamination, and abstract thought. The narrator knows him only due to their mutual love for reading; reveres him and believes “the society of such a man would be to me a treasure beyond price.” The narrator embodies a middle classman climbing the societal ladder of hierarchy with Dupin as his role model. Their home “furnishing in a style which suited the rather fantastic gloom of our common temper, a time-eaten and grotesque mansion…and tottering to its fall in a retired and desolate portion of…” This equal depiction of a shared country, per se, between two separate walks of life and societies permits a sense of symmetry despite their contrast. Their shared taste in luxury (books) brings them together – they go “seeking…infinity of mental excitement which quiet observation can afford”. What they chase is only that of an intellectual's goal.
Within the text there’s redundancy in explaining the “murderers” “unusual degree of strength, and activity” as well as an “unequal voice.” These descriptions parallel that of lower, working class peoples whose opinions and decisions don’t effect political movements like the higher classes. This monkey embodies our ancestral, feral past in which we correlate more readily to those of low status, morals, manors, and knowledge – the more observing, inventive, functional, and adaptive a group is, the more evolved those individuals must be. This Orangutan belongs to a sailor who is - despite that this animal is his- innocent. We do know this man is very poor and he is lured to Dupin via a note written (complements of Dupin) about the capture of a loose Orangutan – with no mention to the Rue Morgue murders. The fact that the man follows up on the retrieval of the monkey after the atrocities it had spent in his masters’ presence suggests an inability to detach the two characters from one another. So with that idea in mind, the sailor as the “owner” and of very low socio-economic class represents a man and a monster in one. He’s further developed than the monkey, but is aware of his ancestral impulses and even with the adaptation of reason and morals is fearful of the possibility of the animalistic nature inside of him. Poe writes of the sailor’s account “occasioned by the intractable ferocity of his captive…lodging it safely at his own residence…not to attract toward himself the unpleasant curiosity of his neighbors, he kept it carefully secluded.” The sailor seems quite embarrassed by the idea of his little “secret,” monstrous, wild tributary unleashing upon society. The importance of the monkey’s mimicry of his “master” shaving is that the entire fiasco had materialized and been produced by the man himself, because it was learned. A condition of “self-activity” has become a true “fetter” to the innocent sailor.
The events within the story are entirely dependent and interconnected by the characters of Dupin, the Orangutan, and the sailor. So you see, if Dupin hadn’t of been in good economic standing and then brought down he would not have solved the Rue Morgue case, the sailor if not a sailor wouldn’t be a metaphor for human hostility, immature nature, and fear of those attributes. Such a mystery couldn’t be of any other explanation but a supernatural one if the Orangutan hadn’t of been in Poe’s mind. Dupin is necessary for the juxtaposition and specialty of his character compared to the narrator.

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting. It could use a good redrafting for clarity (especially some work leading an unfamiliar reader through the story), but overall the idea is quite strong. I'd like to have seen more about how Dupin's perception might be the result of his class, how even his 'intelligence' might be just a class marker, rather than an inherent value. Also, keep working on framing the piece--you start with Marx but more or less finish just with Poe. Be could to use this opportunity to use the Poe to make further comments on the value of Marxist criticism.