Poe's Stories

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Narrator (The Murders in the Rue Morgue; The Purloined Letter) Character Analysis

A close friend of Auguste Dupin. Though the narrator does not possess Dupin's genius, in The Murders in the Rue Morgue he begins to share Dupin’s eccentric way of life, and they go out strolling at night through the Paris streets. The narrator responds to Dupin’s tricks and solutions with admiration, especially when Dupin seems to inhabit the narrator's own consciousness and know exactly what he’s thinking. He joins Dupin in helping to solve the case at the Rue Morgue, though he appears in the narrative as more of a lens through which to observe Dupin’s method. The narrator plays a similar role in The Purloined Letter.

Narrator (The Murders in the Rue Morgue; The Purloined Letter) Quotes in Poe's Stories

The Poe's Stories quotes below are all either spoken by Narrator (The Murders in the Rue Morgue; The Purloined Letter) or refer to Narrator (The Murders in the Rue Morgue; The Purloined Letter). For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Rivals and Doppelgangers Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Classics edition of Poe's Stories published in 2006.
The Murders in the Rue-Morgue Quotes

Had the routine of our life at this place been known to the world, we should have been regarded as madmen – although, perhaps, as madmen of a harmless nature. Our seclusion was perfect. We admitted no visitors.

Related Characters: Narrator (The Murders in the Rue Morgue; The Purloined Letter) (speaker), Auguste Dupin
Page Number: 242
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, the narrator of the story establishes the time that he has spent with Auguste Dupin, the great detective. Dupin is a prototype for Sherlock Holmes--he's smart and sophisticated, but he's also an incredibly odd, eccentric person (and Poe arguably invented the modern detective story through the character of Dupin). Dupin and the narrator live together in a house and stay up late every night reading and putting their minds to use. While they're both highly intelligent people, their behavior could easily be mistaken for insanity.

It's a mark of Poe's devotion to eccentricity and strangeness that even in a story about a detective--supposedly a paragon of rationality and self-control--the characters seem like "madmen" trapped in a sinister, isolated house. Dupin and his friend use their intelligence to solve crimes, but intelligence is not enough--intuition and eccentricity of imagination are vital in understanding the world, a surprising reminder of Poe's own eccentric worldview.

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The modes and sources of this kind of error are well typified in the contemplation of the heavenly bodies. To look at a star by glances -- to view it in a side-long way, by turning toward it the exterior portions of the retina (more susceptible of feeble impressions of light than the interior), is to behold the star distinctly -- is to have the best appreciation of its lustre -- a lustre which grows dim just in proportion as we turn our vision fully upon it.

Related Characters: Narrator (The Murders in the Rue Morgue; The Purloined Letter) (speaker)
Related Symbols: Eyes
Page Number: 252
Explanation and Analysis:

In this symbolic passage, the narrator makes an interesting analogy for understanding the world. The best way to understand a star in the night sky isn't to look at it directly. Indeed, when staring directly at a star, the star's light is dimmer. The best way to truly observe the star is to look just to the side of the star, allowing the greatest amount of light to enter the eyes.

The narrator's description of the stars is a clever metaphor for the way that Dupin goes about solving crimes, and perhaps for the way that Poe understands the universe. Total rationality (looking directly at the stars) simply isn't enough. Rather, the greatest insights can be achieved through intuition and free imagination (look to the side of a star). Dupin solves his cases by allowing his imagination and intuition to interact with his conscious mind. By the same token, Poe's stories are so evocative and memorable because they're full of events that have no rational explanation--i.e., they can only be understood if one surrenders some rationality in favor of imagination and emotion.

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Narrator (The Murders in the Rue Morgue; The Purloined Letter) Character Timeline in Poe's Stories

The timeline below shows where the character Narrator (The Murders in the Rue Morgue; The Purloined Letter) appears in Poe's Stories. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The Murders in the Rue-Morgue
Rivals and Doppelgangers Theme Icon
The Gothic Style Theme Icon
The Power of Memory Theme Icon
The story begins with a long description of the “analytical mind”. First, the narrator of "Rue-Morgue" describes how the analytical mind delights in untangling a problem as the athlete enjoys physical... (full context)
The Gothic Style Theme Icon
The narrator of "Rue-Morgue" tells us that this discussion will be relevant to the story to follow and now... (full context)
Rivals and Doppelgangers Theme Icon
The Gothic Style Theme Icon
The narrator of "Rue-Morgue" tells us that if you could observe their daily routines, you’d think the pair suffered... (full context)
Rivals and Doppelgangers Theme Icon
The Gothic Style Theme Icon
Self, Solitude, and Consciousness Theme Icon
The narrator of "Rue-Morgue" comments that Dupin has a particular analytic ability and enjoys using it while they are... (full context)
Rivals and Doppelgangers Theme Icon
The Gothic Style Theme Icon
Self, Solitude, and Consciousness Theme Icon
The Power of Memory Theme Icon
...narrator’s, about a “little fellow”, who would do well in a sort of freak show. The narrator of "Rue-Morgue" tests him, and Dupin guesses absolutely correctly that the narrator was thinking about the figure... (full context)
The Gothic Style Theme Icon
Self, Solitude, and Consciousness Theme Icon
Next, Dupin explains the series of events that lead him to think of Chantilly. The narrator of "Rue-Morgue" says of this trick that it is just as if he himself has retraced his... (full context)
Rivals and Doppelgangers Theme Icon
Self, Solitude, and Consciousness Theme Icon
The Power of Memory Theme Icon
...that this refers to the change of Urion to Orion, and also knows that if the narrator of "Rue-Morgue" was to think about Orion, which he did by looking up to it, his mind... (full context)
Rivals and Doppelgangers Theme Icon
The Gothic Style Theme Icon
Dupin then asks the narrator of "Rue-Morgue" whether he noticed anything peculiar in the newspaper report. He emphasizes the word ‘peculiar’ in... (full context)
The Dead and the Living Theme Icon
The Gothic Style Theme Icon
Dupin tells the narrator of "Rue-Morgue" that he expects to be met by someone who is in part responsible for the... (full context)
Rivals and Doppelgangers Theme Icon
The Dead and the Living Theme Icon
The Gothic Style Theme Icon
Now with all this is mind, Dupin draws the attention of the narrator of "Rue-Morgue" to the method of the crime, the extreme force of both the murders. He asks... (full context)
Rivals and Doppelgangers Theme Icon
The Dead and the Living Theme Icon
The Gothic Style Theme Icon
Dupin sums all these details up for the narrator of "Rue-Morgue" and asks him what he thinks now. The narrator can only imagine that the deed... (full context)
Rivals and Doppelgangers Theme Icon
Dupin shows the narrator of "Rue-Morgue" an excerpt from a Cuvier text about the Ourang-Outang, whose described anatomy and strength match... (full context)
Rivals and Doppelgangers Theme Icon
The Gothic Style Theme Icon
The narrator of "Rue-Morgue" wonders how Dupin knows already that the sailor is from a Maltese vessel. Again, Dupin... (full context)
Rivals and Doppelgangers Theme Icon
The narrator of "Rue-Morgue" adds a few closing remarks. The sailor later recaptures the Ourang-Outang and sells it for... (full context)
The Purloined Letter
Rivals and Doppelgangers Theme Icon
...story, like "The Murders in the Rue-Morgue," concerns Dupin, and the period of time that the narrator of "The Purloined Letter" spent with him in Paris. One evening, the Prefect of the police calls at their... (full context)
Rivals and Doppelgangers Theme Icon
the narrator of "The Purloined Letter" asserts that it might be possible for the letter to be hidden somewhere other than... (full context)
Rivals and Doppelgangers Theme Icon
The narrator of "The Purloined Letter" is astonished, but the prefect again reminds him of the large reward. The narrator asks... (full context)
Rivals and Doppelgangers Theme Icon
...write him a check, and when he has it, he will hand over the letter. The narrator of "The Purloined Letter" and the prefect are in shock at this turn of events. The prefect writes the... (full context)
Rivals and Doppelgangers Theme Icon
Self, Solitude, and Consciousness Theme Icon
Dupin then explains himself to the narrator of "The Purloined Letter" . He says that he had faith that the police would do a completely thorough... (full context)
Rivals and Doppelgangers Theme Icon
The Gothic Style Theme Icon
Self, Solitude, and Consciousness Theme Icon
...were only a mathematician, he wouldn’t have been able to reason so well, says Dupin. The narrator of "The Purloined Letter" thinks this is a strange theory. It is completely contrary to popular opinion about mathematics.... (full context)
Rivals and Doppelgangers Theme Icon
Dupin reminds the narrator of "The Purloined Letter" what he said to the prefect when he visited, about the riddle being too self-evident.... (full context)
Rivals and Doppelgangers Theme Icon
Self, Solitude, and Consciousness Theme Icon
The narrator of "The Purloined Letter" is unclear why Dupin replaced the letter, rather than just stealing it. Dupin explains that... (full context)