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Detective fiction is a sub category of crime fiction and mystery fiction, whereby the detective, who could be amateur or professional, investigates crimes, often murder. Edgar Allen Poe, an American editor, author, literary critic, and poet was well known for his macabre and mystery tales. Among them is the ‘Purloined Letter,’ one of his finest of works. It falls among his finest stories about detective fiction. Modern detective fiction has had to borrow a lot from the early detective fiction. Generally, a modern detective fiction involves detective trying to determine whom and how a certain crime was committed; as well as the police attempting to crack a case. There are discussions of the modus operandi, motives and alibis.

Most early detective fictions did not have most of these elements that are found in modern detective fictions, but going through Poe’s ‘The Purloined Letter’ one realizes most of these aspects in one way or the other. ‘The Purloined Letter’ is a detective story by Edgar Allen Poe. It involves the investigation of a letter stolen from a lady’s dressing room by a Minister G. Its contents are said to be rather compromising, and G uses it to blackmail the victim- the lady. This story is not passing like an excellent detective story since we know the identity of the culprit right from the beginning, for one.

"Well, then; I have received personal information, from a very high quarter, that a certain document of the last importance, has been purloined from the royal apartments. The individual who purloined it is known; this beyond a doubt; he was seen to take it. It is known, also, that it still remains in his possession."

‘The purloined Letter’ is the finest Poe detective stories. This can be attributed to the partial lack of elements of Gothic, like the description of gruesome dead bodies, as ‘The Murders of Rue Morgue’ had. Most importantly, the concept of ratiocination is effectively employed in this story; it brilliantly illustrates intuitive intellect as a concept at work that logically solves a problem. ‘The Purloined Letter’ has been told with economy of the utmost scale.

Several devices ‘The Murders in the Rue Morge’ are emphasized and others are added. Two parts have been delved from the story-Monsier G, the first part, the Prefect of Paris, goes to Dublin with a problem. A stolen letter is being utile to blackmail the victim from which it was stolen. Minister D is the name of the thief while the method is called substitution who did not protest. Minister D, the writer and the victim having big posts in the government making it extremely difficult to retrieve the letter. The demands being made have got utmost implications and are dangerous politically. The Prefect has done a thorough search of Minister D to the extent of tearing apart his furniture, and failing to find him even with his men. Dupin is of the view that a re-search of the house ought to be done.

The other part of ‘The Purloined Letter’ involves the explanation of Dupin about how he obtained the letter, to his chronicler. He has assumed the inversion of one of the aphorisms introduced in the ‘Murder in the Rue Morgue.’ The simplicity of the case makes it too difficult to solve. The method of psychological deduction is then introduced by Dupin beyond that. Everything about Minister D had to be reviewed before anything else, after which he looked again into what he had in mind. As such. The Minister's thinking got reconstructed, leading to the possibility that the letter was hidden in plain sight, being considered. By this theory, Dupin paid the Minister a visit and found the letter disguised but in plain sight.

‘The Prefect appeared absolutely thunderstricken. For some minutes he remained speechless and motionless, less, looking incredulously at my friend with open mouth’(Poe, 46)

After memorizing how the letter appeared, leaving a snuffbox like an excuse to come back. On. During a prearranged diversion, he exchanged his fax for the original having duplicated the letter and departed after retrieving the snuffbox. The formula of the most obvious place is introduced into detective fiction by his solution.

Though less astitute, Dupin’s reactions are similar to those of the reader, so that the reader can feel that he is superior to him. Such a narrator naturally guides our attitudes toward Minister G, Dupin and the case. For instance, in awe of Dupin's methods and abilities; the reader may keep a more critical distance, Dupin is guided in that direction to some extent. At the end, such a narrator is the determinant of the amount of information that a reader gets and guides the attention of the reader to the information which is received. In such a case, the narrator tells us about everything, just the way he receives it; since he did not witness the solution of the case, the reader too doesn’t.

Dupin is obviously a brilliant detective and an original eccentric. Apparently, he is a person with acquaintances in many places and many connections as well as a very private person. He prefers the evening and the darkness.

“…as he gave a long, steady, and contemplative puff, and settled himself in his chair. "I will tell you in a few words; but, before I begin, let me caution you that this is an affair demanding the greatest secrecy, and that I should most probably lose the position I now hold, were it known that I confided it to any one.”

 He feels that darkness is remarkably conducive for reflection. He would rather gather his information and thoroughly ponder before setting out to undertake any action. He is a silent person who prefers contemplative silence; he talks a little, may an hour or two of contemplative silence (Lacan, 10).

‘I was astounded. The Prefect appeared absolutely thunder stricken. For some minutes, he remained speechless and motionless, less, looking incredulously at my friend with open mouth, and eyes that seemed to start from their sockets; then, apparently in some measure, he seized a pen, and after several pauses and vacant stares, finally filled up and signed a check for fifty thousand francs, and handed it across the table to Dupin. The latter examined it carefully and deposited it in his pocket-book; then, unlocking an escritoire, took thence a letter and gave it to the Prefect.’(Poe, 9)

He is learned in various areas such as poetry and mathematics in which he seems learned and competent, and also an expert in people’s psychology (Johnson, 42). Generally, a modern detective fiction involves detective trying to determine whom and how a certain crime was committed; as well as the police attempting to crack a case. There are discussions of the modus operandi, motives and alibis. Most early detective fictions did not have most of these elements that are found in modern detective fictions, but going through Poe’s ‘The Purloined Letter’ one realizes most of these aspects in one way or the other. Contrast to him is The Prefect, Monsier G.

The unnamed narrator’s personality, the Dupin-chronicler, falls between these two extremities. Though he shares some of Dupin's tastes such as silent contemplation in darkness and has some comprehension of Dupin's methods, he seems psychologically closer to Minister G than to Dupin. He appears to be a rather ordinary person with views and ideas that are rather ordinary. Hence, his interjections and his assumptions are mostly erroneous; he assumes, for instance, that if the police are not able to find the letter after their search, then it ought to be elsewhere. In his altercation with Dupin about mathematicians, the narrator takes the common attitude and view towards mathematicians, a position Dupin dismisses as explicit idiocy. Dupin gives the following response towards the narrators despises remark about mathematicians;

"You surprise me," I said, "by these opinions, which have been contradicted by the voice of the world. You do not mean to set at naught the well-digested idea of centuries. The mathematical reason has long been regarded as the reason par excellence.’ (Poe, 29)

The narrator is a mediator between the reader and Dupin, in other words (Johnson, 20). Though less astitute his reactions are similar to those of the reader than the reader, so that the reader can feel like he is superior to him. Such a narrator naturally guides our attitudes toward Minister G, Dupin and the case. For instance, in awe of Dupin's methods and abilities; the reader may keep a more critical distance; he is directed in that direction to some extent. At the end, such a narrator is the determinant of the amount of information that a reader gets and guides the reader’s attention to the information which is received. In such a case, the narrator tells us about everything, but only like he receives it; since he did not witness the solution of the case, the reader too doesn’t.

Conclusion

The Purloined Letter is an early detective story by Edgar Allan Poe. One can say that most other modern detective stories have been coined from this story, though, not wholly. It involves an investigation towards a letter stolen from a lady by a Minister G who uses the compromising contents of the letter to blackmail the victim.

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