Sample Essay on the Purloined Letter

The Purloined Letter is Edgar Allan Poe’s third detective story where he features the fictional C. Auguste Dupin.  Just like his other tales, he wrote the purloined letter in complex idiomatic expressions that are archaic. The language he uses is somewhat stilted, and the inclusion of some foreign phrases place the characters and the situation far from an average reader’s understanding.  The narration of the story is in confidential, condescending, casual and playful tone. The story focuses on the relationship between Dupin and the Paris police, that is, the savvy private eye and the ineffective established order.  The principle of ratiocination is effectively applied in this story, in that; intuitive intellect concept is used to solve problems logically. Apparently, The Purloined Letter is not traditionally gothic but brings about a gothic-scary aspect. It is quite creepy to sneak to an individual’s house at night without their knowledge just as Dupin and his men go to Minister D’s house. Dupin’s narration of the details of his witty ways of getting the letter is a psychological thriller, and the mysterious content of the letter creates a Gothic mood.

The narrative is divided into two sections, in the first section, Dupin is visited by Monsieur G, a police Prefect, who informs him that a letter was stolen from the royal offices, and it is being used to blackmail the victim of the crime. The thief in the subject is Minister D, and the problem is getting back the letter because the victim and the writer are prominent government officials and if they are exposed it would be politically dangerous. On the second part, Dupin explains the means he used to get the letter from the thief bringing up the psychological deduction method (Pg. 76). The setting of the story is in the dark, in Dupin’s library in Paris France around 1800s. It starts as Dupin and narrator sit out in the dark, meditating, for about an hour and G arrives. On G’s arrival, Dupin decides to switch on the lights since G wants him to ponder on an issue, “If it is any point requiring reflection,” observed Dupin, as he forbore to enkindle the wick, “we shall examine it to better purpose in the dark.”(Pg. 71) In this case, Dupin’s statement is ironic because commonly light is related to knowledge but per him; all the truths of life are in the plain light. Similarly, even when Dupin visits Minister D’s house during the day, he closes his eyes, literally to everything apart from the letter and he even uses green glasses to make his vision darker. Instead of using light in the darkness, he uses darkness in the light which is an unexpected reversion forcing the reader not to take a thing for granted. According to the narration, clearly seeing or not seeing is not based on light or darkness but depends on an individual’s vision and ability to comprehend what is viewed. The narrator uses darkness and light to highlight the diverse means of approaching truth and reality.Ideally, the conflict between Duping and the police Prefect reveals their contradicting temperaments; however, it is also depicted humor since Duping continuously but subtly takes ironic verbal punches at the ignorant Prefect, who throughout the story is portrayed as mentally disadvantaged.

Imagery is created right from the beginning of the story where the narrator is seen sited out meditating and smoking, “I was enjoying the twofold luxury of meditation and a meerschaum, in company with my friend C. Auguste Duping”( Pg. 71).  Readers can imagine of the drifting smoke, shadow figures and dim outlines and also the kinds of thoughts that the two people are having. Symbolism is portrayed in different aspects, for instance, the use of green sunglasses by Dupin symbolizes his willingness to explore various reality versions, and the letter is a symbol of how in most cases it is difficult for a person to see what is just in front of them( Pg. 82). Likewise, the keys of Monsieur G symbolize the police surveillance tactics and also the wrong method of inquiry.