Description of Texts

All of the prose works we used can be categorized as detective fiction. Initially, we compared Wilkie Collin’s The Moonstone, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Sign of Four and A Study in Scarlet, Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell Tale Heart,” “Murders on the Rue Morgue,” “The Purloined Letter,” and the “Cask of Amontillado.” Using A.E. Murch’s definition all of these works can be categorized as detective stories or detective fiction. For instance, “a detective story…may be defined as a tale in which the primary interest lies in the methodical discovery, by rational means, of the exact circumstances of a mysterious even or series of events. The story is designed to arouse the reader’s curiosity by a puzzling problem which usually, though not always, concerns a crime…” (Murch 11). Although we did consider and compare the above mentioned texts the following five texts are the ones we focused on.

Our Five Texts:

1. Edgar Allan Poe: (1809- 1849)

  • “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” (1841)  and “The Purloined Letter” (1845)

2. Wilkie Collins: (1824-1889)

  • The Moonstone (1868)
3. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: (1859-1930)
  • The Sign of Four (1890)  & A Study in Scarlet (1887)
Hopefully without ruining the ending for any of these stories one will be able to read the following descriptions of the detectives on Wikipedia.com.
There are numerous passages that underline the similarities between Dupin, Sherlock Holmes and Sergeant Cuff.
For instance, Dupin is clearly the most intelligent of men and holds his keen sense above the police,

“Why, yes,” said Dupin, drawlingly, between the whiffs of his meerschaum, “I really—think, G—, you have not exerted yourself—to the utmost in this matter. You might—do a little more, I think, eh?” (Poe)

Similarly, Sherlock Holmes expresses the same kind of attitude regarding those of lesser intelligence,

“No, no: I never guess. It is a shocking habit-destructive to the logical faculty. What seems strange to you is only so because you do not follow my train of thought of observe the small facts upon which large inferences may depend” (Doyle 114).

Finally, there is Sergeant Cuff,

‘In all my experience along the dirties ways of this dirty little world, I have never met with such a thing as a trifle yet” (Collins 109).

All of the detectives in these various texts possess keen sense and are able to make inferences and conclusions based on only the most trifling of issues. Among other things, these are some of the connections between the texts, consider the following excerpt from The Sign of Four:

Watson compliments Holmes as possessing Dupin-like qualities. Holmes, however, does not take this as a compliment:

Sherlock Holmes rose and lit his pipe. “No doubt you think that you are complimenting me in comparing me to Dupin,” he observed. “Now, in my opinion, Dupin was a very inferior fellow. That trick of his of breaking in on his friends’ thoughts with an apropos remark after a quarter of an hour’s silence is really very showy and superficial. He had some analytical genius, no doubt; but he was by no means such a phenomenon as Poe appeared to imagine” (Doyle 16)

Not only were the later works influenced by another, they were often included passages mocking the “inferior” detectives and their mysteries.

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