Poe's Short Stories

Edgar Allan Poe and the Orangutan Obsession College

Edgar Allan Poe’s unusually common usage of orangutans in his short stories is no secret. In The Murders of the Rue Morgue, the orangutan turns out to be the murderer who deprived Madame L’Espanaye and her daughter of their lives. Its actions are depicted as extremely –and perhaps uncomfortably- human like. Its shrieks using a ‘shrill voice [like] that of a man’, however its language is obviously not recognized.[1] When assuming the murder’s occurrence in chronological order, it is suggested that the daughter’s body was ‘firmly wedged in the chimney’, while her mother’s was ‘hurled through the window headlong’, as if the brute realized its actions are less than worthy and desired to hide away the bodies of the deceased women.[2] Therefore, the orang-utan seems to bears uncanny similarities to our species in that it can communicate albeit not effectively, and it can kind of distinguish between right and wrong. Also in Hop Frog, the figure of the orang-utan features as a masquerade disguise for the king and his seven ministers. They are ‘saturated with tar’ and covered with ‘flax’ in order to accurately represent these beasts.[3] The orang-utan emerges as an undesirable and scary creature. However, seeing that the eight important...

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