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The Purloined Letter by Edgar Allan Poe

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Commonly known for writing in a gothic style, Poe is also considered to be one of the founders of a detective story genre. The Purloined Letter is a short story that is practically devoid of gothic elements suggesting that brainwork can be no less intriguing. This piece of writing deals with the case of blackmail that is done by the Minister who captures a controversial letter from a royal young lady. The author demonstrates detective Dupin’s investigation which is done on police request and has a successful ending.

Although The Purloined Letter is a detective story, the actual investigation is not the only thing that matters. Instead, the author shifts the focus to a different matter: he describes the motivation of Dupin against the Minister. In fact, there is a touch of competition and revenge in the situation, which makes the author’s message different from just a successful ending of Dupin’s efforts. Poe reveals an idea that a criminal and an investigator have similar mindset, and that the urge of beating the rival is stronger than the actual return of the letter. It is implied that the police’s main drawback is that they are straightforward and not flexible in their actions. They prefer fair play, while it does not work with people who have a wider range of techniques. So, an investigator has to put himself in a criminal’s shoes in order to see the truth. He should think in the same way and act in the same way too. So, the problem is to distinquish where a thin borderline between a criminal and his chaser lies when the two ones have so much in common.

In the end, Dupin tricks the Minister D, which gives him much pleasure, probably more than the reward promised for the letter. Thus, the message is that a criminal can be beaten with his own tool; yet acting in the same way is dangerous, because it is addictive.

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