Without Edgar Allan Poe, we wouldn't have Sherlock Holmes Illustration to "The Purloined Letter" by E. A. Poe. (Dmitry Rozhkov/Wiki Commons/Billy Hathorn/Wiki Commons)
Without Edgar Allan Poe, we wouldn't have Sherlock Holmes
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When Edgar Allan Poe first introduced the world to C. Auguste Dupin, he hit on a winning formula.
 
Dupin was Sherlock Holmes before Sherlock Holmes. Dupin was a genius detective. He first appeared in "The Murders in the Rue Morgue." It was published in 1841. In that story, two women are dead. The game's afoot, as Holmes might say. Poe didn't give Dupin a nifty catchphrase.
 
The roots of the detective story go as far back as Shakespeare, write historians Helena Markovic and Biliana Oklopcic. But Poe's tales of rational crime-solving created a genre. His stories, they write, mix crime with a detective narrative. They revolve around solving the puzzle of the "whodunit," inviting readers to try to solve the puzzle too.
 
The key figure in such a story is the detective. Poe's detective, who also appears in "The Mystery of Marie Roget" and "The Purloined Letter," set the stage for that character. Dupin is a gentleman of leisure. He has no need to work. Instead, he keeps himself occupied by using "analysis" to help the real police solve crimes. The real police are absolutely incompetent. They are similar to Inspector Lestrade and Scotland Yard to Holmes.
 
Like his literary descendant, Dupin smokes a meerschaum pipe. He is generally strange. He's also unnaturally smart and rational, a kind of superhero who uses powers of thinking to accomplish great feats of crime-solving. And the story's narrator, who is literally following the detective around, is his roommate. Dupin's roommate, unlike John Watson, remains a nameless "I" throughout the three stories. However, he is equally ordinary.
 
In the Dupin tales, Poe introduced a number of elements. One is the friendly narrator that would remain common to detective stories, write Markovic and Oklopcic.
 
"The elements Poe invented, such as the reclusive genius detective, his 'ordinary' helper, the impossible crime. The incompetent police force, the armchair detection, the locked room mystery, etc., have become firmly embedded in most mystery novels of today," the historians write.
 
Even Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock, had to acknowledge Poe's influence.
 
"Where was the detective story until Poe breathed the breath of life into it?" he wrote.
 
Poe's formula appealed in the 19th century. That's because detective stories promised that reasoning could hold the answer to every question. At the same time, with spooky overtones, they appealed to 19th-century readers' obsessions with the occult.
 
The detective story, writes Ben MacIntyre for The Times of London, was particularly appealing. It promised that intellect will triumph. The crook will be puzzled by the rational sleuth. Science will track down the troublemakers and allow honest souls to sleep at night. 

At the same time, MacIntyre writes, 19th-century anxieties about the Industrial Revolution and new ways of living supported the idea that evil was anonymous. And, it was everywhere. These two instincts - "faith in reason and mistrust of appearance" - are what made Victorians love detective stories. That love endures today.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why is Dupin referred to as "Sherlock Holmes before Sherlock Holmes?"
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (34)
  • chadm-orv
    5/02/2017 - 11:54 a.m.

    It's considered that because during that time they didn't Sherlock Holmes they had C. Auguste Dupin.

  • joshuaa-bur
    5/02/2017 - 05:04 p.m.

    Dupin was referred as the Sherlock Holmes before Sherlock Holmes because he and Sherlock where almost identical but Dupin came out in the 19century. I was never a fan of mysterys but the fact that in Dupins story they have the reader engage in the crime was pretty interesting to know.


    "THE MORE YOU KNOW"

  • angelax-bur
    5/02/2017 - 07:07 p.m.

    Dupin referred to as "Sherlock Holmes before Sherlock Holmes" because some people believe that Edgar Allen Poe's Auguste Dupin encouraged the idea of Sherlock Holmes to Conan Doyle. I personally believe that Auguste sparked that little flame inside of Doyle, probably inspiring him to make Sherlock Holmes.

  • aidenj57-
    5/04/2017 - 08:32 a.m.

    he gave the idea to someone and they had a lot in common

  • antonioc1222-
    5/04/2017 - 08:33 a.m.

    Dupin and Sherlock homes have many of the same characteristics.

  • wesleya-
    5/04/2017 - 08:39 a.m.

    Cause he created Sherlock Holmes but not fully though. He had be influence of Sherlock Holmes but no one created him.

  • garfielda-
    5/04/2017 - 12:59 p.m.

    because he was a great detective

  • samanthas-1-ste
    5/05/2017 - 01:09 p.m.

    Dupin is almost exactly like Sherlock Holmes. He came before the actual Sherlock Holmes. Even the creator of Sherlock Holmes acknowledged how similar they were.

  • hayleel-ste
    5/05/2017 - 01:17 p.m.

    People believe Edgar Allen Poe gave people the idea of Sherlock Holmes to the Arthur Conan Doyle.

  • avah-kut
    5/08/2017 - 01:25 p.m.

    That's crazy that there was a sherlock holmes before sherlock holmes. That so cool that historians found that out.

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