Poe's Short Stories

Science and Art in Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Purloined Letter” College

In one of the first detective stories, “The Purloined Letter”, E. A. Poe creates an extraordinary character with a powerful personality, a master of ratiocination, and he lets the reader take part in the intriguing process of finding a missing letter hidden in plain sight. The originality and superiority of Dupin, the sleuth, his ability to solve mysteries which seem inaccessible to others lies in the quality of his mind – of being, at once, that of a poet and that of a man of science, thus being able to challenge opponents with an equally brilliant capacity of reasoning.

At the beginning of the short story, the “mock didactic motto” (Peiu 40) states that “Nothing is more hateful to wisdom than too much cleverness,” which immediately gives the reader a hint that a certain character in the story might fail in his actions because of the means he employs. That character turns out to be, in accordance with the layout of detective stories, the Prefect, who, regardless of the countless attempts to find the letter, searching the minister’s house and the “two houses immediately adjoining” (Poe 423), showing a scrupulosity out of the ordinary, found himself having wasted three months and still not having solved the case. The prefect...

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