The Purloined Letter

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The Purloined Letter
Author Edgar Allan Poe
Published 1844-??-??
Type Fiction, Short story
Genre Mystery
Themes Mystery
Age Group Adult

The Purloined Letter is a short story written by Edgar Allan Poe and published in December 1844. It is the third and final story of the C. Auguste Dupin series. This story is in the public domain.

In the story, a government minister has stolen an intimate letter of France's queen and is using it to blackmail her. A prefect is confident the minister has the letter at his home, but his many searches have turned up nothing. At his wit's end, the prefect consults with amateur detective C. Auguste Dupin in the hope he can help solve the case.


Own?Compilation book.
Read?Compilation book.

Wanting to expand my knowledge of older fiction, I bought an anthology of classic American short stories. I'm not sure why this was included rather than some of Poe's more famous works. I read it, and wasn't very impressed.




— This section contains spoilers! —


  • Poe, as usual, uses a wide variety of esoteric vocabulary which challenges the reader.


  • The prefect is a bit racist, stating matter-of-factly that Neapolitans are drunks. Similarly, Dupin is a prejudice, stating that mathematicians are cold people who apply the laws of mathematics to all areas of their life, even those unrelated to math. While these are characters, and don't represent the views of Poe, it still makes them harder to appreciate.
  • The explanation for how a student won all the marbles of his classmates through many games of odd or even, because he considered the intelligence level of his opponent, isn't very believable. Humans, even children, are never so easy to predict, especially when playing competitive games.
  • Dupin doesn't act very heroic in this story. He requires a large payment, takes revenge on the minister, and is ultimately helping royalty conceal an affair.


  • Even if we assume that Dupin's deductive method (of altering one's approach based on the level of intelligence of a criminal) is effective, since he knows the Minister more intimately than the prefect, even if the prefect were to use Dupin's method, it still wouldn't have helped him.
  • The book is lacking the suspense or intrigue that would later become typical of the genre. Very early on I accurately predicted how it would end, and then I had to read a rather drawn-out conclusion.


Strong female character?FailA woman is only mentioned.
Bechdel test?FailNo women speak in the story.
Strong person of color character?FailEveryone in the book is white.
Queer character?FailNone of the characters appear to be queer.


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