Is the Story in The Pale Blue Eye Based on a Real One?

The Pale Blue Eye is Netflix’s first big movie of 2023. Christian Bale plays detective Augustus “Gus” Landor, who is sent to West Point to look into a string of murders. Landor works with Edgar Allen Poe, a young cadet at the institution who is played by Harry Melling.

Did it actually take place? Was Edgar Allen Poe an amateur detective? Poe did not go to West Point, but some people say that he invented the detective story. Here’s what’s real in The Pale Blue Eye and what’s not. The movie is based on a best-selling book by Louis Bayard with the same name.

Bayard writes in an afterword, “There have been a fair number of books with Poe as a character. I chose to catch him at an early stage in his development—when he’s a cadet at West Point. He’s only twenty. He’s published a couple volumes of poetry, but he’s largely unknown to the reading public, still struggling to find his voice, still trying to consolidate this very troubled relationship with his foster father, John Allan.”

As the New York Times Book Review wrote at the time of its publication, “The regimented, gloomy world of West Point, with all its staring eyes and missing hearts, forms a perfectly plausible back story to the real-life Poe’s penchant for tintinnabulation, morbidity and pale young women, first initial L.”

Edgar Allen Poe did go to West Point, which is part of the United States Military Academy. In 1827, Poe joined the U.S. Army. He said he was 22 years old, but he was only 18.

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In March 1830, he started at West Point, but he left in January 1831. In March 1831, Poe was officially fired. Even though Poe went to West Point, this is obviously a work of fiction, writer and director Scott Cooper told Tudum.

“What I’m saying is that it’s these events that occur in our film that shaped his worldview and helped him become the writer that he became—with the recurring themes that deal with the questions of death and the effects of decomposition and reanimation of the dead and mourning; all those are considered part of his dark romanticism.”

The Pale Blue Eye is Poe’s homage. Poe’s character C. Auguste Dupin in “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” is thought to be the first fictional detective. So, the made-up Detective Landor is in the same kind of story that Poe made famous.

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