Type: Literary Analysis
Pages: 3 | Words: 891
Reading Time: 4 Minutes

Despite Dupin’s astuteness as a detective, “˜The Purloined Letter’ is not satisfactorily a detective story. For one, we know the culprit’s identity from the beginning, and we have very little knowledge about the other circumstances.

“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.”

Later the reader comes to know the letter’s contents, and the only thing to be done is to assume him significance of the origin and the nature of its destination (Pierre, 34). The reader also has very little knowledge about the participants in the event.

This can only mean that “˜The Purloined Letter’ is not satisfactory since it ends not in epistemic catharsis. The notion that the reader takes part in the investigation of a crime and therefore should be given the whole information on which the detective relates or bases his conclusions is quite modern. In “The Purloined Letter,” there is a little chance for the reader to take part, first because little information about Minister D’s character is known in the first part of the story, and, two, because there is no indicator of any activity undertaken by Dupin until the second half. The following quotation explains the perception the narrator had of the Minister;

“This functionary, however, has been thoroughly mystified; and the remote source of his defeat lies in the supposition that the Minister is a fool, because he has acquired renown as a poet. All fools are poets; this Prefect feels; and he is merely guilty of a non distributio medii in thence inferring that all poets are fools.”

Poe’s purpose was not to invite the participation of the reader; instead it was to emphasize rationality, emphasizing logical thinking as a way of solving problems. As a result, Dupin’s exposition of his line of thought processes are the most paramount or vital part of the story. Had this logical investigation not been highlighted as well as a solution of a problem, the detective story may not have been developed; certainly it would actually have been very different if it had. However, with this approach and method established, it became rather easy, and logical, to evolve the idea of the reader as a person who took part. “I saw, in fine, that he would be driven, as a matter of course, to simplicity.”(Poe, 31)

“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, 21)

An attempt to determine a criminal’s psychology is a tradition that is honorable in detective fiction. As more about human beings is learned, the methods that are particularly used also change, as well as their motivations and behaviors, maybe even in a bigger way or the same way as psychological theories change. Therefore, much of Dupin’s or Poe’s psychology seem dated, especially the explanations. For example, the boy used by Dupin as an example arranges his face such that it is similar to another person’s expression as much as possible; this is supposed or ought to give rise to thoughts and feelings that are the same as another person’s.

Outward expressions, that is, clothes, facial expressions and so on, are actually thought to have an effect of the way a person feels, this idea being rather current; that effect is thought to be general as opposed to specific while we are no longer of the belief that we can attain much knowledge about another person in this way (Rzepka, 32). Additionally, that thinking habits most likely contribute to a person’s success in a particular field is probably true, though, the distinctions are not as rigid as Poe makes them appear, nor are the qualities sallow by no means. Despite the principles used by Dupin being rather outdated, he has gotten a direct method (Pierre, 23). Of course, this method is applicable to other types of problems that are posed in detective fiction; any time the detective can apply and learn some knowledge of the psychology of the criminal, he is not far from solving the crime;

“All the grounds are paved with brick. They gave us comparatively little trouble. We examined the moss between the bricks, and found it undisturbed.”(Poe, 24)

The stories era, that is, the political system in France gets revealed by other details in “˜The Purloined Letter,’ as well as Dupin’s comment about mathematics, poetry, and particularly sciences. Either way the story flows well and the details get overshadowed by the story and the sweep of the puzzle, “The Purloined Letter” would still be of paramount historical importance since it brings out the solution of the most obvious place, the method of psychological deduction, and the assumption that the most difficult cases to solve always seem to be the simplest, even if the story were not still interesting reading. “The Purloined Letter” provides both good reading and historical interest in detective fiction (Poe, 17).

“The principle of the vis inertiae, for example, seems to be identical in physics and metaphysics.”

Sherlock Holmes and The Purloined letter relate to each other in that both use logical reasoning in solving crimes. Of course, both fall under detective stories.

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