An audience surrogate is a character in literature or a motion picture that serves as the entry point into the story for the viewers (or readers). This is a common phenomenon, especially when the plot and the characters are too unrelatable and preposterous. That’s when the audience surrogate implicitly assures the audience that what they are seeing is as confounding for the audience surrogate as it is for the audience. In The Fall of the House of Usher, Auguste Dupin is that character. Although the Ushers take up a lot of screen time, we get to learn about them because Dupin sits down to listen to Roderick’s backstory while drawing a thick line between Roderick’s perceived reality and his own. Now, let’s talk about why his journey became intertwined with that of the Ushers and how he differentiated between his definition and Roderick’s definition of “richness.”
Auguste Dupin and His Rivalry With Fortunato
Fortunato was guilty of forging the signatures of their employees to sanction various kinds of illegal activities in the field of pharmaceuticals. As the investigator who put a stop to such practices, Auguste Dupin took it upon himself to shut Fortunato down by proving that its CEO, Rufus Griswold, was a fraud. Dupin knocked on the doors of all the employees whose signatures had been forged, and the only one who didn’t outright shoo him away (largely due to Annabel Lee) was Roderick Usher. At the time, Roderick was angry at Rufus Griswold because he was in the position that was rightfully Roderick and Madeline’s. When Roderick pitched Ligodone to Rufus, he rejected it and then bought the rights to mass-produce Ligodone without giving any credit to Roderick. When Madeline proposed the idea of using computers programmed by her to lighten Fortunato’s paperwork, Rufus demeaned her. And the last straw was Rufus forging Roderick’s signature. So, Dupin addressed this pent-up frustration to motivate Roderick to speak up against Rufus and Fortunato. After a lot of convincing and back-and-forth, Roderick agreed to help Dupin take down Rufus and help millions of people get justice. However, at the last moment, greed got the better of Roderick, and he decided to stand with Rufus and backstab Dupin. Soon after that, Roderick and Madeline became the owners of Fortunato, but Dupin’s old relationship didn’t dissuade him from trying to take the pharmaceutical company down.
Why didn’t Auguste Dupin publish Roderick’s confession?
Throughout the trial centered around Ligodone, Dupin, and Roderick never met each other on a personal level. Dupin had no option but to keep tabs on the entire Usher family because they were benefactors of Fortunato. But Roderick went out of his way to be informed about Dupin and his family. That said, Dupin did pull back his punches when Roderick’s loved ones started to drop like flies. When all of them were gone, he entertained Roderick’s last request and sat down for a conversation with him. Dupin listened to him talk about the manner in which all of his kids and grandchildren have died; he saw him freak out due to the heart disease that was deteriorating his mind, and he heard him confess to the murder of Rufus Griswold. He recorded all that and then witnessed Roderick’s death at the hands of Madeline and death herself standing atop what remained of the Usher household.
Now, Auguste could’ve published Roderick’s confession, as it would’ve not only destroyed the Usher name but also served as the final nail in Fortunato’s coffin. However, all the Ushers were dead, and Fortunato had gone bankrupt due to the Ligodone trial. So, there was nothing left to tarnish or punish. That said, Roderick’s extensive confession had a hint of humanity to it, and it also showed that Roderick didn’t actually regret doing the things that he had done and, given the opportunity, he would’ve done them all over again. This one-two punch would’ve made him a hero because we know that there are people out there who love to be flag-bearers of capitalism. They don’t have accolades of their own, but they will spend every waking minute of their lives absolving businessmen of their sins that have caused the deaths of millions of people. The reason behind that is insecurity. If these people learned (from the confession) that the great Roderick Usher cared about his family while putting the blame on the deaths of all those who consumed Ligodone on their stupidity, they would’ve deified him. And Dupin didn’t want that to happen. Additionally, he didn’t want to spend another second of his life thinking about the Ushers. If he had published that confession, he would’ve had to start another journey, dissecting everything that Roderick had said. Instead of doing that, he chose to spend the rest of his time with his family because Dupin knew that that was more worthwhile to him than all the riches in the world.
Similarities and Differences Between Mike Flanagan and Edgar Allan Poe’s Auguste Dupin
Auguste Dupin in The Fall of the House of Usher is a direct reference to Le Chevalier C. Auguste Dupin. The character made its first appearance in the Poe Universe with the author’s short story titled, The Murders in the Rue Morgue. He then made returned in other mystery short stories written by Poe. Apart from the names, the two versions of the characters don’t have a lot of similarities between them. Poe’s version of Dupin was a casual detective who threw himself into these preposterous cases because it stimulated his mind. Mike Flanagan’s version of Auguste Dupin was an investigator who looked into cases of medical fraud and sought justice for the millions of people who were impacted by dangerous pharmaceutical companies. Poe’s iteration of Dupin was incredibly talkative, and once he dove into the details of a murder and everything surrounding it, he didn’t know how to stop. Flanagan’s iteration of Dupin was far more reserved, and the way he expressed himself had a sense of calmness to it, which can be a result of the amazing Malcolm Goodwin and Carl Lumbly’s interpretation of the character. Poe had described Dupin as the embodiment of respectful attention, and you can say that that’s an aspect that is palpable in the live-action version of the character. Either way, if it’s a possibility, I would love to see more of Goodwin as Dupin, dealing with various cases of medical fraud.