The Purloined Letter – Themes

Dynamics of Power

The gender hierarchy operates from the beginning of the story. The Minister abuses his power by intimidating the lady. Owing to her gender, she cannot publicly expose the immoral Minister. It is also likely that she may be deemed less credible than the accomplished Minister. Therefore, she is bound to function within the established framework of the Parisian society. Her identity and her relationships have been defined in terms of the letter. Notice how the Prefect states that “The personage robbed” is desperate to reclaim the letter. The implied meaning of the statement can be interpreted through a nuanced understanding of the social position of the Lady. Despite her association with the influential class, she does not possess any true power of her own. Similarly, even the minister is operating under the misconception that he is indomitable. The final act of re-purloining the letter ruins his ambitions.

Use of Logic

C. Auguste Dupin has used abstract logic in “The Purloined Letter.” It is a tale of ratiocination that prefers logic over horror as a narrative tool. Dupin successfully deduces the whereabouts of the letter based on the Minister’s thought process. As described above, he draws inspiration from children’s games involving imitation. In order to overcome the opponent, a child often mimics him. This helps him to understand what the opponent is thinking. Based on the judgment, the child wins the guessing game. Dupin investigative technique is based on simple and unembellished analogies. He does not approve of grand or exalted methods which the police regularly employ. He successfully traces the trajectory of the Minister’s thought and reclaims the letter. Additionally, he also avenges his own humiliation at Vienna.

A Psychological investigation of Dupin’s methods

Dupin’s inspiration is drawn from the rustic game played by children. His innovative method is derived from deep evaluation of the human psyche. His unparalleled observation makes his detective skills more effective than the mundane conventional Parisian police methods. The game of guessing involves nuanced understanding of the human mind. The expertise of the school boy is premised on his cognitive skills to imitate and manipulate the opponent. This, the boy does by “identification of the reasoner’s intellect with that of his opponent.” This simple yet profound method has been co-opted by the detective. By predicting the actions of the Minister based on his intentions, Dupin successfully retrieves the letter.

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