Edgar Allan Poe’s The Purloined Letter is widely considered the greatest of his three detective short stories. The story revolves around C. Auguste Dupin, a detective who also appears in Poe’s other two detective works The Murders in the Rue Morgue and The Mystery of Marie Roget, and the Paris police as they try to solve the mystery of a missing letter. The letter contains important information about a political figure in a high position that could potentially this person, which causes serious concern among the police.
The prefect of the Paris police, Monsieur G—, claims that a man by the name of Minister D— has stolen the letter and replaced it with a duplicate letter of his own. Dupin claims that because the letter is readily available, it must be in Minister D—’s apartment, but Monsieur G— responds that they have thoroughly checked the Minister’s apartment and there was no letter to be found. When Monsieur G— returns back to Dupin a month later with an increased fifty-thousand dollar reward, Dupin presents the letter him and collects the reward. The Purloined Letter presents a theme which is logic vs. ntuition. While searching for the stolen letter in the Minister’s apartment, the Paris police use intuition because they assume that the letter would be in a small, hidden compartment. However the Minister anticipates that the police would overlook a very obvious location, which on his mantle with another group of letters. When Dupin visits the Minister’s residence, he notices the letter in a very obvious spot. By using simple logic and thinking as the Minister did, Dupin was able to solve the central conflict quite easily when he returned the letter to the police.
Unlike most Poe stories, the conflict was resolved without any catastrophe or death as well. Dupin makes a few references to his thought process at the end of the work. He makes a reference to young boys playing even and odds, a game that requires knowledge of the opponent. This story relates to the mystery of the letter because Dupin knows that the Minister is a very intelligent man, so he would never hide the letter in plain sight. Dupin also describes a game in which a person chooses a place on a map, and the opponent must choose the place.
Dupin says that the largest name on the map is often the place because it is so obvious that nobody would ever suspect it. Using this knowledge, Dupin enters the apartment and is easily able to locate the letter on the mantle. Dupin replaced the letter with a fake letter containing the following message: “Un dessein si funeste, S’il n’est digne d’Atree, est digne de Thyeste” which translates to “A plot so deadly, if unworthy of Atreus, is worthy of Thyestes” (Poe 379). Dupin’s letter implies that the Minister did not plan as carefully as he should have, which is the reason why Dupin was able to find the purloined letter so easily.
Dupin and the Minister are very imaginative in their scheming, as both of them replace the letter with duplicates. Dupin and the Minister also know that the letter should be in an obvious spot so that it would never be found by the police. Atreus and Thyestes were ancient Greek twin brothers, so this may hint that the Minister and Dupin are brothers. Dupin is more crafty with his deception when he leaves his snuffbox behind and creates the distraction outside, which is why he is able to succeed over the Minister.