Edgar Allan Poeand The Detective Story
Early Life • Poe was born in 1809 in Boston, MA. • His father, actor John Poe, left the family approximately one year later. • His mother, actress Elizabeth Poe, died of tuberculosis in 1811. • He was separated from his siblings and went to live with foster parents, John and Frances Allan, in England and Scotland before they all returned to Richmond, VA. • Poe married his 13 year-old cousin who died of tuberculosis in 1847, two years before he died.
The Mystery of Poe’s Death • The writer was found unconscious lying in an alley near the present day location of the stadium where the Baltimore Ravens Football team, named for his poem “The Raven” plays. He died a few days later. • Many theories exist about his cause of death, including that he was bitten by a dog and contracted rabies and that his death resulted from his alcoholism. • Poe was only 40 years old when he died.
Career • Attended college in Virginia and West Point but did not graduate • Served in the military • Published stories in newspapers and magazines • Wrote poems, including the Raven • Supported himself by working as an editor and a literary critic
Characteristics of Poe’s Writings • Contained mysteries and suspense • Featured narrators that were unpredictable • Presented characters with flaws, often fatal • Sometimes used gothic architecture • Compared the environmental ruin to the human decay • Themes of death and destruction commonly found • Included characters that were buried alive
Father of the Detective Story • Poe wrote three short stories that solidified his position as the father of the detective story. • He created an imaginary character named C. AugusteduPin, a man who was not a policeman, but who had high mathematical reasoning skills who solved crimes that the police were not able to resolve. • duPin was visited by the character called G____, who was the Prefect of the Police, for supposed unofficial business, but the policeman really was soliciting his assistance with the cases.
Examples of Poe’s Detective Stories • “The Purloined Letter,” “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” and The Mystery of Marie Roget” are Poe’s detective short stories. • “The Purloined Letter” tells the story of a letter with compromising information stolen from a woman’s boudoir for blackmail intentions. • “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” is about the murders of two women • “The Mystery of Marie Roget” is based on a real-life story of a woman from Connecticut who was found murdered in New York’s Hudson River.
Poe: A Master of Mystery and Suspense • From the unexpected summons from Roderick Usher to a boyhood acquaintance to the strange sounds heard through the night, Poe brings the reader alone in an effort to figure out what is happening at the House of Usher. • Another example of the story’s suspense is the shocking appearance by the scratched, bloodied and dirty Madeline who has escaped her tomb where she was buried alive. • Then, from ‘The Cask of Amontillado,” the narrator takes the reader down the steps to the cellar where the unsuspecting Fortunato will be left buried alive.
Post Poe Examples of Detective Stories • Mystery writer Agatha Christie’s MonsierHerculePoirot enjoyed a respect from active law enforcement personnel regarding his crime solving skills. • Inspector Sherlock Holmes is another example of the successful detective after Poe.
Modern Day Examples of Detective Stories • Characters locked inside bunkers or abandoned buildings have strong similarities to the buying alive of Madeline Usher in “The Fall of the House of Usher” and Fortunato in “The Cask of Amontillado.” • The television series “Law and Order” features crime events in each segment that involve detective work to determine what crime has been committed and by whom. • The movie “The Hunger Games” includes the elements of mystery and suspense in the characters’ need to solve the puzzle about the next attack to stay alive while being uncertain about some of their own alliances. • Although they do so with the aid of magic, Harry Potter and his friends as detectives use a method of gathering clues and developing theories about the identity of the culprit. • There is a detective mystery in each Harry Potter book that is tied to the mystery about the murder of his parents in the first book of the series.
Sources • www.cafepress.com • www.chrisroutledge.co.uk/writing • www.archive.contantcontact.com • www.data3.teacherspayteachers.com • www.itunes.apple.com • www.sites.psu.edu/spadaforacl/2014/0205/pas-3-the mystery-behind-the-hunger-games