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Mandy Teerlink ENG 384 Dr.

Dennis Perry 28 March 2012 Poes Detectives: How Modern Detective Television Shows Reveal Poes Influence Poe enthusiasts know and understand the major contribution that Poe made to literature when he wrote the C. Auguste Dupin detective stories. Any detective story written since that time contains traces of the original The Murders in the Rue Morgue and The Purloined Letter. Poe essentially created a new literary genre when he wrote these stories, which has enabled to Poe to influence generations of crime fiction writers. However, most Englishspeaking audiences have no clue that the current epidemic of detective television shows is due mostly to Poe's influence. Almost any modern detective show follows the same formula as Poes original detective stories: a peaceful ideal setting in the beginning, a disturbance of the peace (murder, robbery, etc.), the detective gathering information, a revelation concerning the criminal, and a restoration to the beginning setting (Magistrale and Poger 56). Some examples of crime shows that follow this formula are Law and Order, Monk, Rizzoli and Isles, and Bones (Jackson 2841). One of these shows with some of the most interesting connections to Poe is called Numb3rs. Numb3rs is about a mathematician assisting his older brother in finding crime suspects using mathematical equations of probability. Although there are some major differences between Dupin and the main characters in Numb3rs, this particular show is a great case study in analyzing the effects that Poe has had on modern television shows. I hope to prove through my analysis that Poe has affected not only the layout of the detective story plot, but also the way in which crimes are portrayed, and the attitudes and relationships of the detectives.

Teerlink 2 A Formula for Detection As listed previously, most detective stories follow the same formula that originated in Poes Dupin stories. The first component of the Poe formula is a peaceful, idyllic setting (Magistrale & Poger 4). In Murders in a Rue Morgue, the narrator gives a vague, plodding overview of his past experiences with Dupin. There is very little action before they discover the crime. Once they have read the police report about the murders, the criminal act has disrupted the peace of their community. In comparison, Numb3rs starts out each episode with the main characters Don and Charlie Eppes in a comfortable, though professional setting. Peace is more implied than demonstrated, but the viewer does not receive much of the peaceful context, because each episode is based on a criminal incident in the community. Then, a peaceful, restricted society is disrupted by some perpetrator of serious crime (Magistrale & Poger 4). This is the moment when Dupin and the narrator see the police report and go to visit the crime scene. Similarly, Numb3rs always unfolds a crime scenario at the beginning of each episode. Don Eppes, an FBI agent, usually visits the scene of the crime, where he receives flashes of insight into how the crime may have happened. Although Don is not in any way clairvoyant, he is experienced enough in his FBI career to be able to piece together parts of the crime scene. This is convenient for viewers, because they receive the same insights of the crime as Don, giving viewers a measure of his desire to solve the crime. As Magistrale and Poger state in their book about Poes Children, the audiences interest in the criminal increases during the course of the narrative. We want to know more about these beings: their motivations, purposes, powers, and personalities, and even their potential flaws, which may aid in their capture or destruction (5). Peter Thoms, in his article about Dupin, argues, the writer begins by disorienting the reader, fanning our uncertainty and fear with the inexplicable presence of a

Teerlink 3 body and then proceeds to soothe our distress by locating the subject in an explanatory context (135). This drive to understand the criminal drives the narrative in Murders in a Rue Morgue, just as it does in Numb3rs. The next component of Poes formula is the detective gathering information. We see this in Murders in a Rue Morgue, when Dupin visits the crime scene, talks to the witnesses, and tracks down the sailor. Dupin does not reveal anything that he might have inferred from his data until he has gathered all the information that he needs. The gathering of information also occurs in Numb3rs as Don and Charlie are working to solve a crime. Charlie is a mathematician, who tries to predict criminal patterns based on past crimes and many other variables. Don gathers data for Charlie to develop the algorithms for solving the crime. Thus, the two brothers combined equal Dupin, and his powers of ratiocination. Typically the crimes portrayed in Numb3rs are part of a serial sequence, which makes it possible for Charlie to trace patterns in their behavior. However, the crime usually takes precious time to solve, and at least one more incident of the same crime occurs before Charlie is able to find a pattern that works. This is not really part of the formula, but it does build suspense throughout the show, putting more pressure on the characters to solve the crime. The last component of Poes formula is the detective receiving a revelation about the criminal and restoring the community to order. Although Dupin gradually comes to his conclusions throughout the murder investigation, he reveals what he has concluded only at the end of the story, when the data gathering is complete. To the reader, Dupins conclusions really do feel like a revelation, enforcing the supernatural mystique surrounding Dupins powers of deduction. In comparison, Numb3rs viewers tend to experience the revelation about the criminal either through one or both of the Eppes brothers. In Charlies case, the revelation usually comes

Teerlink 4 when he is trying to solve an equation of mathematical probability, and some variable falls serendipitously into place. For Don, his type of revelation is more closely related to Dupins, in which he makes a sudden connection of logic, thereby finding the criminal. Once the criminal is found, order can be restored, and everything in the community returns to its previous peaceful state. Whether the society depicted is the small English country town or the mean streets of an American big city, the emphasis in the detective tale is on the restoration of a comprehensible morality. This restoration results not in the reformation of society, but in the re-establishment of what existed before (Magistrale and Poger 35, emphasis added). This statement suggests that whatever may be the root cause of criminal activity within the society is never actually resolved, because the society does not change, but merely moves in a cyclical state. We see this in the Dupin stories, but more especially in Numb3rs, because of the episodic nature of the show. The cyclical notion is always reinforced by starting and ending in apparently the same place, the FBI building where Dons office is located.

Crime Portrayal The foregoing analysis of Poes formula demonstrates how modern TV shows emulate Poe in plotlines, but it is important to note that Poe also impacted the portrayal of crime within crime shows. The portrayal of crimes in Numb3rs resembles Poe in two ways: graphic imagery, and the audiences perspective of the crime. The audience may in fact be pulled in by the imagery of crime, as an article written about justice in the media states, In their choice of television shows, Americans are drawn to the most fanciful, gruesome, bizarre, or self-serving portrayals of criminal justice (Coping With Justice 116). It is no wonder, then, that Poe would

Teerlink 5 choose to include such portrayals in his detective stories, or that the detective show writers would choose to follow suit. Graphic imagery in Murders in a Rue Morgue is one of the most jarring aspects of the story. Let us glance at butchery itself. Here is a woman strangled to death by manual strength, and thrust up a chimney, head downward (Poe 259). The word choice here is gritty, yet it gets the point across very quickly. Most crime shows take the same approach when filming the crime within each episode. The camera is slanted, creating a crazed perspective. The cinematographer will also often use a filter of some kind, causing the image to be blurred or grainy, and leading the viewer to feel slightly tainted by the crime committed. The first episode of Numb3rs uses this film technique when the filmmakers are portraying the rape and murder of a young woman. Strangely, the perspective taken when filming these scenes is that of the murderer, which creates a sense of sublime revulsion in the viewer. In contrast to the perspective of the murderer, filmmakers also use the perspective of the detective. Through these two perspectives, viewers can understand the crime from both sides of the spectrum. Magistrale and Poger say that this duality can be interpreted psychologically: we read detective stories to act out in our own minds, with part of our being, the desire to murder someone, and, with another part, the desire to punish the murderer. Thus, our divided selves revel in both parts of the chase, both trying to escape capture and trying to effect capture (33). It seems slightly eerie to suggest that everyone has an impulse for murder. In fact, it is more likely that the sublime moment of murder overtakes the viewers senses in order to render capturing the criminal more powerful. With only the detectives perspective, the show would probably not entertain viewers nearly as much, or involve them as closely with the events of the plotline.

Teerlink 6 Attitudes and Relationships of Detectives The link between the Eppes brothers and C. Auguste Dupin is probably the most important connection between the show and the story in this paper. Charlie is especially significant in his similarities to Dupin as a mathematical genius. According to Loisa Nygaard in her essay about Dupins inductive powers, A traditional prerequisite for successful analysis is a detached, removed, objective standpoint which helps explain why gifted ratiocinatorsare so frequently portrayed as loners and eccentrics, isolated individuals with little in the way of family ties or other commitments (225). Each ratiocinator experiences a different kind of isolation. For Dupin, it is a physical isolation, removed (with the narrator) from the rest of the physical world. This isolation is completely different from that of Charlie Eppes. Although he is extremely close with his father and brother, he often reveals a sort of navet concerning the human race in general. He has difficulty interacting with women, and when his mother was on her deathbed, he became preoccupied with an unsolvable mathematical problem instead of dealing with his grief. Don Eppes also takes part in a kind of emotional isolation, becoming the prototypical American workaholic, and opting out of many typical social activities of a young bachelor. In The Tell-Tale Art, Christine A. Jackson stipulates the most important aspect of the relationship between Charlie and Don, and Dupin: The investigators in Numb3rs represent two sides of human cognition, the Bi-Part Soul of Dupin. They read clues to discover a priceless treasure, a missing child, or a decades-old killing. the struggle to solve the mystery proceeds with a blend of clues and skills (55). Dons skills as an FBI agent are the most necessary to all of the cases that the Eppes brothers attempt to solve together, because of his experience in the criminal world. However, Charlies contribution is not to be undervalued. Charlie is able to view life in a mathematical way that allows him to elucidate mathematical

Teerlink 7 equations from virtually anything. In comparison, Dupin is part logician, part Romantic poet, and part metaphysician, but his supreme crime-solving gift is his imagination, which enables him to identify with the criminal mind (Magistrale and Poger 24). This relates directly to ratiocination, the term coined about Dupins ability to solve crimes. Poe proses later in his career that in C. Auguste Dupin he unites the critical powers of reasoning and the perception and energy of the heart (Whitt 112). The duality that is inherent in ratiocination is evident through Jacksons analysis of the bi-part soul. Don and Charlie are clearly two representative halves of Dupins whole. What makes that idea compelling is the opportunity to see, essentially, the inner workings of Dupins mind. By splitting up the two separate parts of Dupins soul, the two halves are forced to communicate in front of an audience. This is also achieved in Poes stories, but it takes place through Dupin imparting his methods to the narrator, which is less accessible to a reader or viewer. Poes original crime-solving duality was a sturdy original narrative construct. Over the decades, the double investigator has changed to fit the writers using it (Jackson 41). In the case of Numb3rs, the crime-solving duality is complete within the Eppes brothers, which is what makes them such a successful team.

Conclusion Although the comparison made between Murders at the Rue Morgue and Numb3rs is not a perfect one, valuable ideas can be inferred from the analysis. The cultural ramifications of Poes work, as always, go underappreciated. Hollywood certainly owes millions (if not billions) to Poe just from the invention of the detective story alone. The popularity of crime-solving television shows are at least in part due to Poes influence. As Neil McCaw states in his book

Teerlink 8 about criminal fiction on TV, These detective narratives became part of the cultural construction of nationality and criminality, both determining and determined by the wider ideological context (5). As a part of our culture, Poe created a formula that works for any level of detective series or story. Some critics question the motives of Dupin and his credibility, but they cannot contest his relationship with some of the most beloved fictional detectives of our day (Nygaard 225). As a culture, we do not always understand the undercurrent of meaning that Poe leaves behind in his work, but that is one of the most beautifully mystifying aspects of it (Wilbur 808). As Kopley says in his book about detective fiction, Poe offers in the Dupin tales a great delight and an engaging challenge. And he offers, too, through his brilliant detective/teacher, a guide as to how to meet that challenge (Kopley 89). We find the same riddle, as well as another solution, in Numb3rs, providing its audience with yet another interpretation of how the criminal world works.

Teerlink 9 Works Cited Coping with Justice. The Wilson Quarterly, 7.2 (1983): 116131. Print. Jackson, Christine A. The Tell-Tale Art. North Carolina: McFarland and Co., Inc. (2012). Print. Kopley, Richard. Edgar Allan Poe and the Dupin Mysteries. New York: Palgrave Macmillan (2008). Print. Magistrale, Tony and Sidney Poger. Poes Children. New York: Peter Lang Publishing, Inc. (1999). Print. McCaw, Neil. Adapting Detective Fiction: Crime, Englishness and the TV Detectives. New York: Continuum International Publishing Group (2011). Print. Numb3rs. By Nicolas Falacci, Cheryl Heuton. CBS. 20052010. Television. Nygaard, Loisa. Winning the Game: Inductive Reasoning in Poes Murders in the Rue Morgue. Studies in Romanticism, 33.2 (1994): 223254. Print Poe, Edgar Allan. The Murders in a Rue Morgue. The Selected Writings of Edgar Allan Poe. Ed. G.R. Thompson. New York: W.W. Norton and Co. (2004). Print. Thoms, Peter. Dupin and the Power of Detection. The Cambridge Companion to Poe. Ed. Kevin J. Hayes. Cambridge: Cambridge UP (2002). Print. Whitt, Jan. Edgar Allan Poe and the Murders He Wrote. The Detective in American Fiction, Film, and Television. Ed. Jerome H Delamater and Ruth Prigozy. Connecticut: Greenwood Publishing Group, Inc. (1998). Print. Wilbur, Richard. The House of Poe. The Selected Writings of Edgar Allan Poe. Ed. G.R. Thompson. New York: W.W. Norton and Co. (2004). Print.