While mainstream thought considers Poe’s C. Auguste Dupin to be the first detective with Murders in the Rue Morgue his debut appearance, the female detective trope has her origin in E.T.A. Hoffman’s Das Fräulein von Scuderi. Despite her vintage, the mademoiselle’s role as investigator was overshadowed by her male counterparts in detective fiction, first in time not here being first in right. In subsequent detective fiction a la Poe, the female’s role is typically that of a body—a victim or a corpse exploited by both author and character alike, crimes against who throws a patriarchal world into disorder (e.g., McChesney 3). The male detective must then solve the crime restoring order. This portrayal of gendered roles in the Anglo-American rendition of the genre is artificial, resulting in an imbalanced genre reflecting and reinforcing a patriarchal society at large. Yet the female in detective fiction is changing. New (and old) female sleuths present more-balanced characters, employing both the cold logic used by their male counterparts and their very own, very distinctive modus operandi. These female detectives balance science and superstition, reason and emotion, and restore not only order but also balance to a world thrown into chaos. Most importantly, more female detectives act in complimentary concert with male counterparts presenting balanced lives. Most importantly, when the female investigator appears in heavily male-dominated, machista cultures, her role is also a vehicle for protest and demand for social change.
Date of publication
Hui Wu, Anett Jessop, Catherine Ross
Master of Arts in English
Farah, Anthony E., "The Mystery of the Missing Half: The Developing Female Investigator Trope in Detective Fiction" (2019). English Department Theses. Paper 21.