Gender Roles in Hayes and Poe

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Throughout history, women have battled discrimination and inequality inside and outside of the home. Women were generally seen as worthy only as housewives who took part in chores, such as cooking and cleaning. A woman’s perspective did not hold any value, and she was not allowed to do what men were allowed to do, like vote or own land. According to, it says, Gender equality is the measurable equal representation of women and men…they have equal value and should be accorded equal treatment. The United Nations regards gender equality as a human right…empowering women is also an indispensable tool for advancing development and reducing poverty. This basic human right was not found in literature or in life In the 19th and 18th centuries. In Poe’s Murders in the Rue Morgue, women are seen as nothing more than window dressing- empty vessels to be seen, not heard, which is ironic because in real life, over one hundred years earlier, in The Newgate Calendar, Andrew Knapp and William Baldwin show that Catherine Hayes was a manipulating mastermind of a murder- a far cry from the gasping swooning depictions of the fairer sex in literature.

In The Murders in the Rue Morgue, it is a man who is construed as being clever and an exceptional analyst. On this subject, the reader takes into consideration that in the beginning of the story, the entire explanation of what an analyst is, is characterized by the particular pronoun he, not she. The two ladies, Madame L’Espanaye and Mademoiselle Camille (mother and daughter), that had been murdered do not get speaking roles, and are not characterized materially, aside from the exposed wounds on their cold, dead, corpses. Poe gives the two men in the story judicious conversations, but then diminishes the two women to… a succession of terrible shrieks (Poe, 5). In the story, the mother and daughter’s deaths stay undisciplined. Thus, the men, at the time, that might have been involved were let go without any charges. Even the orangutan is not killed for his belligerent actions; instead, he is sent to the Jardin des Plantes in Paris. Dupin, the detective, and the unnamed narrator show misogynistic satisfaction in the brutal murders of L’Espanaye and Camille. Another example is that Dupin and the narrator live together, which shows that they in a cloistered way, do not need any females in their lives. Also, Dupin enjoys showing off his intellectual advantages over other men (Poe, _). The reader can use deduction to figure out that either Dupin is a homosexual man, or he just does not have any relationship with a woman to show that he is better than them in every aspect.

It is appealing for the reader to detect/realize that both the mother and daughter do not have any men in their lives. These women are taking care of themselves, and only receiving help from the laundress, a woman, Pauline Dubourg, who helps them with household tasks. Such women are known to be wealthy, and Madame L’Espanaye tells fortunes, and apparently has magical powers. As anticipated, such self-sufficient women threatened men who feared the women’s demand for male superiority and dominance. Because the women in the story are shown to be wealthier and superior, and the men are shown as inferior, this makes the murders even more fascinating. It seems that the women who threaten the men’s superiority, are being murdered to eradicate this threat.

Nevertheless, the women in The Murders in the Rue Morgue symbolize a rather secretive image with them allegedly posing a threat to the men by living alone, not needing a man in their lives, and being wealthy, the readers are able to believe their convalescence and common female stereotypes in distressing situations is accentuated more adequately. The only lines these women have are screams and shrieks. Before the killings, Madame L’Espanaye and Mademoiselle Camille were in their pajamas/lingerie, the mother was brushing her hair. The mother and daughter did not fully grasp what was going on behind them, and in the end the daughter becomes unconscious due to seeing this unpleasant event. Throughout the tale the powerlessness of women is stressed in general as well, as it can be perceived in quotes such as …[n]o woman could have inflicted the blows with any weapon… (Poe, _) and …the strength of Madame L’Espanaye would have been utterly unequal to the task of thrusting her daughter’s corpse up the chimney as it was found… (Poe, _). Just because they are women, they are such an easy target. Clearly, this is a misogynist aspect, but it stresses how a lot of readers see the women of Poe’s tales.

In Knapp and Baldwin’s Newgate Calendar, Catherine Hayes was known to be the sexual predator, who was charred at the stake for her life of immoral actions. Once the reader actually breaks down and analyses the text and Catherine’s background story, they can realize that her punishment is extremely unjust because she is a woman. Catherine’s crime is depicted in terms of aberrant female sexuality, one-dimensional character, and a high self-esteem. When Catherine was fourteen years of age, her father died, and his widow had been left to combat in progressively contrasting issues. In spite of this, at home, Catherine was seen as worthless, stubborn, and generally gloomy. These were only some of the many factors that led up to Catherine committing the crime. By the time she was sixteen years old, Catherine Hayes lost all of the morally good women in her life, again, causing her to commit such crime. Back then, women who murdered their husbands were shown to be persuasive, misleading, and corrupt. Additionally, each crime, including social, sexual, and murderous, takes place due to Catherine Hayes’ sexual criminality is defined through her promiscuity, her adultery, and the brutal murder of an her husband, who was seen to be a good man. The reader may believe that the extent of her ethical decay may be due to incestuous relationship with her illegitimate son, Billings.

After observing the overall laziness and silence of the women in Poe’s The Murders in the Rue Morgue , it is remnant that the way the readers should perceive Poesque woman is a moderately adverse one. These women do not have any lines in the story, therefore, they are unable to have their own opinion. Furthermore, these women are being brutally murdered at the beginning of the story. Even though the new category of detective/investigative fiction was popularized with this story, it is quite disappointing that the writers do not find a new point for women in their stories. To this day, gender inequality still exists, and hopefully, one day, there will be a time where there will be true equality. On the other hand, in Andrew Knapp and William Baldwin’s The Newgate Calendar Catherine Hayes, Catherine was a victim of a virilised system. She was never permitted to speak about the situation. The murder she committed was unlawful, but her punishment was unwarranted. By no means does what she did make it okay, but her background shows how she developed as a person. Not only was she a victim of domestic violence/abuse, but a victim of the established masculinity of the law. Hayes was shown to be a manipulating mastermind of a murder plan, but in fiction, women are shown to be nothing more than vapid, empty vessels. Not worthy of anyone’s time or consideration. In The Murders in the Rue Morgue , men are the clever analyzers, not the women. This is ironic because in real life, Catherine Hayes was said to be clever and an analyzer, since she plotted a murder, and manipulated two men into committing it for her.

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Gender Roles in Hayes and Poe. (2019, Jun 02). Retrieved from

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