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The Purloined Letter
Transcript of The Purloined Letter
Spencer Travis Plot Figurative Language The story begins with the narrator and his friend, C. Auguste Dupin, sitting in Dupin’s library enjoying each other’s conversation while smoking. Monsieur G., the Prefect of the Parisian police comes in and tells them of a case that is very simple, and yet is giving him a great deal of trouble. The Prefect explains that a letter has been stolen from a woman of an exalted station (it is never said exactly what), who is to be remained nameless. The thief is known, for the letter was stolen in the presence of the lady, but she did not announce it because of the third person in the room. The thief, the Minister D., uses the letter as leverage to gain power to be used in his own political purposes.
In the rising action of the story, the Prefect explains his investigations of the Minister’s apartment, in search of the letter while he is away. He thoroughly searches the apartment using all of the methods in his repertoire. He goes to extreme detail, even searching every page of six volumes of books with needles and examining the moss between the bricks of the grounds around the houses. Dupin advises the Prefect to search again, and later the Prefect returns after another search empty-handed. The Prefect complains about how much difficulty the case is giving him and says that he would be willing to hand over a check for fifty thousand franks to whomever could find the check, in order to receive the very great amount of money that is awarded for the finding of the letter.
The climax is reached when Dupin says to the Prefect that he will hand him the letter once he has filled out the check for fifty thousand franks. The Prefect is astounded and the exchange occurs, followed by the Prefect rushing out of the room with the letter in his hand. The setting of Paris, which is known as the city of love and excitement, promises adventure in the coming story. The detailing of a dark, gusty evening in autumn gives the story a dark feeling, as is the case with almost all thrilling detective stories.
"At Paris, just after dark one gusty evening in the autumn of 18-, I was enjoying the twofold luxury of meditation and meerschaum, in company with my friend C. Auguste Dupin, in his little black library, or book-closet, au troisieme, No. 33, Rue Dunot, Faubourg St. Germain." (Poe 1). Setting Verbal Irony: " 'In fine, driven to despair, she has committed the matter to me.' 'Than whom,' said Dupin, amid a perfect whirlwind of smoke, 'no more sagacious agent could, I suppose, be desired or even imagined.' 'You flatter me,' replied the Prefect..." (Poe 2).
Situational Irony: When the letter is initially taken by the Minister, the woman does not say anything, although she saw him take it, because she did not want to call attention to it in front of the third person in the room. This is ironic because normally if you saw something you valued was taken, you would not just watch the person walk away with it without saying something. Another example of situational irony is when the Prefect says that he would give anyone fifty-thousand franks for the letter. Immediately after saying this, Dupin tells him to fill out a check and then he will hand him the letter. The Prefect is caught completely off-guard and this is ironic because it is not expected that Dupin, who has not shown much interest in the case, would possess the letter that the Prefect has had so much difficulty in trying to acquire. Irony In the very beginning of the story, Dupin hints that the reason that the Prefect is having so very much trouble with the case is that it is because it is so very simple. Towards the end of the story it is discovered that the Minister had put no effort into hiding the letter and had hidden it in plain sight, so that no one would ever detect it. " 'Perhaps it is the very simplicity of the thing which puts you at fault,' said my friend." (Poe 1). " 'But then the radicalness of these differences, which was excessive; the dirt; the soiled and torn condition of the paper, so inconsistent with the true methodical habits of D--, and so suggestive a design to delude the beholder into an idea of the worthlessness of the document; these things together with the hyper-obtrusive situation of this document, full in the view of every visiter, and thus exactly in accordance with the conclusions to which I had previously arrived...' " (Poe 7). Foreshadowing Simile: " 'He has been twice waylaid, as if by footpads...' " (Poe 3). " '...A single grain of gimlet-dust, for example, would have been as obvious as an apple.' " (Poe 3).
Metaphor: " 'A certain set of highly ingenious resources are, with the Prefect, a sort of Procrustean bed, to which he forcibly adapts his designs.' " (Poe 5). Tone As with many of Edgar Allan Poe's stories, intellectualism is key in describing his stories and setting his mood through high-level thought and words. An example of one of Poe's sections where the high-level thought he is so commonly known for becomes confusing is located inside The Purloined Letter: " 'The great error lies in supposing that even the truths of what is called pure algebra, are abstract or general truths. And this error is so egregious that I am confounded at the universality with which it has been received. Mathematical axioms are notaxioms of general truth. What is true of relation - of form and quantity - is often grossly false in regard to morals, for example. In the latter science it is very usually untrue that the aggregated parts are equal to the whole. In chemistry also the axiom fails. In the consideration of motive it fails; for two motives, each of a given value, have not, necessarily, a value when united, equal to the sum of their values apart' " (Poe 6). Point of View Theme The truth about life and the story is that when people are trying so hard and looking for something so precisely, that what is being searched for is so commonly overlooked because it is hidden in the most obvious of places. In this case the object is as stolen letter, but the object that some people search for and can never find is happiness, which is often right in front of them. Characterization Dupin- Dupin is very intelligent and has exceptional reasoning and logic skills that he uses to "read" the character and thoughts of the Minister in order to come to the conclusion of where the letter must be hidden, that no one else could guess. Throughout the story, Dupin evolves from showing minimal interest in the case, to possessing the most knowledge and solving the case using his keen logic and perception.
Minister D.- The Minister is originally portrayed as a mysterious character who is clever in his actions. Throughout the story Dupin describes him as both a mathematician and a poet, hence the reason that he is able to outwit the Prefect by hiding the letter in the most obvious of places. He is described to have previously done an evil turn upon Dupin which Dupin had said that he would remember. At the end of the story Dupin outsmarts the Minister and earns his revenge. " 'You are mistaken; I know him well; he is both. As poet and mathematician, he would reason well; as mere mathematician, he could not have reasoned at all, and thus would have been at the mercy of the Prefect.' " (Poe 5). This quote is direct characterization because Dupin tells the narrator exactly what the Minister is, and the reader does not have to guess. Edgar Allan Poe chose the point of view of this story to be first person. I believe his choice of this limiting perspective was so clever because throughout the story you do not know everything, and the narrator only learns the details about, and the finding of the letter through Dupin and the Prefect as they tell the narrator. This point of view gives mystery and excitement to the reader that could not be found if the reader knew all of the details such as in third-person omniscient. "At Paris, just after dark one gusty evening in the autumn of 18-, I was enjoying the twofold luxury of meditation and meerschaum, in company with my friend C. Auguste Dupin..." (Poe 1). " 'And what, after all is the matter on hand?' I asked. 'Why, I will tell you,' replied the Prefect...' " (Poe 1). External Conflict: The letter that Minister D. has stolen is continually being used as leverage upon the unamed woman for his own political purposes. " 'Yes', replied the Prefect; 'and the power thus attained has, for some months past, been wielded, for political purposes, to a very dangerous extent. The personage robbed is more thoroughly convinced, every day, of the necessity of reclaiming her letter.' " (Poe 2). Dupin replaces the letter by a fake in order to not be detected by the Minister as he is leaving, otherwise he will be killed. " 'But what purpose purpose had you,' I asked, 'in replacing the letter by a fac-simile? Would it not have been better, at the first visit, to have seized it openly, and departed?' 'D--,' replied Dupin, 'is a desperate man, and a man of nerve. His hotel, too is not without attendants devoted to his interests. Had I made the wild attempt you suggest, I might never have left the Ministerial presence alive. The good people of Paris might have heard of me no more.' " (Poe 7).
Internal Conflict: The Prefect is having a great deal of trouble with the case and is angry with himself; he says that no matter what the reward offered is he could not have done anymore. " '...I wouldn't mind giving my individual check for fifty thousand franks to any one who could obtain me that letter. The fact is, it is becoming of more and more importance every day; and the reward has lately been doubled. If it were trebled, however, I could do no more than I have done.' " (Poe 4). Conflict Characters -Ausguste Dupin (Detective)
-Narrator (Dupin's Friend)
-Prefect (Monsieur G.)
-Minister D. (Thief)
-Unamed Conflicted Woman Picture Sources -http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Purloined_Letter.jpg
-http://hoytlibrary.org/2012/01/16/the-hoyt-library-celebrates-edgar-allan-poe/ Characterization Continued.. Narrator- Throughout the story, the narrator is "along for the ride", learning about Dupin's adventures as he tells them. The narrator is one of Dupin's closest friends and he understands all of the logic that Dupin tells him about. He plays the counterpart to Dupin, and is much like Watson, who complements Sherlock Holmes.
Prefect- The Prefect does not evolve much throughout the story and is continually struck with the dilemma of not being able to find the letter because he lacks the ability to "think outside of the box". He is limited in his methods and serves the purpose of communicating details of the case to Dupin, who takes on the case himself and finds the letter. " 'Perhaps it is the very simplicity of the thing that puts you at fault,' said my friend. 'What nonsense you do talk!' replied the Prefect, laughing heartily. 'Perhaps the mystery is a little too plain,' said Dupin. 'Oh, good heavens! who ever heard of such an idea?' 'A little too self-evident.' 'Ha! ha! ha - ha! ha ! ha! - ho! ho! ho!' roared our visiter, profoundly amused, 'oh, Dupin, you will be the death of me yet!' " (Poe 1). This quote is indirect characterization because the reader infers that the Prefect does not take other people's advice seriously and does not even try to think "outside the box". Plot Continued.. The falling action follows with Dupin’s account of his logic and course of action for finding and taking back the letter from the Minister. He goes into detail about how the Prefect’s methods were accurate, but how they were inapplicable to the Minister and the case. Dupin gives an example of a boy who would always win a guessing game by identifying the reasoner’s intellect with that of his opponent. He explains that the Minister D. is both a poet and a mathematician and if he had been just a mathematician, (who cannot reason at all) than the Prefect would have inevitably found the letter. Dupin goes into excessive detail about why mathematicians cannot reason because all of their methods always fall into a routine set. Dupin refers back to the beginning of their encounters with the Prefect in which Dupin had suggested the Prefect was having so much trouble with the case because of how self-evident it might have been, to which the Prefect simply laughed. He gives another example of how street signs with large letters escape observation because of their being too obvious. Dupin comes to the conclusion that the Prefect never once thought that the Minister had placed the letter immediately beneath the nose of the whole world, so that no one would perceive it. After coming to the conclusion that the Minister did not attempt to conceal the letter at all, Dupin goes to the Minister’s hotel, in disguise, and nonchalantly talks with him, while looking around the room for the letter. Dupin sees a letter rack with a single letter that was crumpled, torn almost in two and that possessed D’s cipher. Plot Continued, Further... Although the looks of the letter do not match the Prefect’s description of the letter, the obvious placement of the letter in the full view of all visitors, convinces Dupin that it is the desired letter. He leaves the Minister and returns the next morning, coming to pick up a snuff-box which he had purposely left. A loud gunshot from a man hired by Dupin is heard in the street outside. As the Minister goes to look out of the window, Dupin takes the letter out of the card rack, replaces it with a fake, and later leaves.
In the resolution Dupin explains to the narrator that he left the fake because if he had not, the attendants of the Minister would probably never have let him leave alive. He explains that although the Minister had had the lady in his control, that now, being unaware that the letter is not in his possession, he will lead himself to his own political destruction.. Dupin goes on to say that he did not leave the interior of the fake letter blank, in order to not insult the Minister in being outwitted. Inside Dupin writes a quote from the story of “Atree by Crebillion”, about revenge - “‘A plan, if disastrous, if it is not worthy of Atreus, is worthy of Thyeste.’” Dupin gets revenge on the Minister from a past evil deed and also earns fifty thousand franks from the Prefect.