Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Purloined Letter” is a short story mystery about utilizing knowledge of a criminal’s mind to solve a case. This story begins with The Prefect of the Parisian Police arriving to talk to C. Auguste Dupin. A valuable letter has been stolen that has the power to ruin someone very important. The Prefect has done everything in his ability to find the letter: he knows who took it, he searches the suspect, he examines the suspect’s residence, he has a witness stating she saw the suspect, Minister D–, steal the letter. The Prefect now seeks the insight of Dupin to get another opinion in the case hopefully. During their conversation, The Prefect explains that he would give fifty thousand francs to anyone able to provide him with information on this letter. At this point, Dupin pulls out the letter, takes the money, and then spills a lengthy explanation of the actions taken to acquire the letter.

To get the letter, Dupin had to utilize knowledge of the thief, Minister D–, to steal the letter from under his nose. Here is a quote showcasing Dupin’s ability to look further into a setting to find what he’s looking for: “At length my eyes, in going the circuit of the room, fell upon a trumpery filigree card-rack of pasteboard, that hung dangling by a dirty blue ribbon, from a little brass knob just beneath the middle of the mantelpiece. In this rack, which had three or four compartments, were five or six visiting cards and a solitary letter. This last was much soiled and crumpled. It was torn nearly in two, across the middle –as if a design, in the first instance, to tear it entirely up as worthless, had been altered, or stayed, in the second. It had a large black seal, bearing the D– cipher very conspicuously, and was addressed, in a diminutive female hand, to D–, the minister, himself” (Poe 468).

A theme of this story is that linear, logical thinking is not always the best tool to solve a problem. Sometimes to solve a problem you need to think of intangibles such as what a person is thinking and to think outside the box. The theme was laid out through a sharp contrast between the first half and second half of the story. Poe gives the reader two completely different ways of going about solving the mystery.


Poe, Edgar Allan, and University of Virginia. “The Purloined Letter” Generic NL Freebook Publisher. EBSCOhost,ezproxy.apus.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&Auth Type=ip&db=nlebk&AN=2011095&site=ehost-live&scope=site. Accessed 13 Nov. 2018