Talk:The Purloined Letter

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I think Sir Arther C Doyale re-did this story could someone help?

In answer to that question, I think it could be argued that Conan Doyle's A Scandal in Bohemia, the first story on The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, is a rewrite of The Purloined Letter by Poe. Actually Conan Doyle was greatly influenced by Poe's Dupin stories, and the character of the sleuth itself is greatly reflected on Sherlock Holmes. Also, there is the fact that the stories are always told by a second-person narrator, a sidekick (Dr Watson and Poe's unnamed narrator). Both involve the "purloining" of an item (Irene's photograph and the Minister's letter), blackmail, royalty, a discussion on the science of deduction, a clever play on appearances (the King's mask, disguises used by Dupin and Holmes), and a clash of intellects. Sdicht 19:26, 15 April 2005

Stub status[edit]

Should this article remain a stub? I will change it soon, pending other's insight. Wendell 04:51, 14 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Mistaken interpretation[edit]

I believe there's a significant mistake in the synopsis: the Prefect is referring to the Queen of France when he speaks of "the royal personage" and not a Duchess. When Dupin explains that he noticed “the ducal arms of the S—family” [1]he’s referring to the compromising letter sent to her by a certain Duke, presumably with whom she is having an extramarital affair. Remember, a seal is placed on a letter by the sender, not the recipient. Minister D disguises the purloined letter as one of his own by putting his own seal on the letter, now reverse-folded and re-addressed in a fake-feminine hand.

The ruse is that Minister D has received a letter from a lady admirer; he has contemptuously rejected her and, instead of tearing it in two, is sending it back —hence it bearing his own black wax seal.

If no one objects to this interpretation of Poe’s story (I’ll wait a few days), I’ll make the necessary corrections.--OldCommentator 15:08, 14 February 2006 (UTC)


I've removed a short section called "Plot" which seemed to be just a brief abstract of the Synopsis section. Tell me if this was inappropriate. --The Famous Movie Director 10:56, 11 April 2006 (UTC)


I noticed an addition that suggests a critic offered evidence that Dupin and D-- are brothers. Anything more specific worth mentioning? Midnightdreary 02:33, 29 November 2006 (UTC)

I believe this could be in the book "Détections fictives" (published by Editions du Seuil, Paris). I haven't read the book though (seems out of print). This fact was mentioned in the preface to a paperback edition of Poe's stories. My guess would be that the main clue comes from the words Dupin writes about the brothers Atreus and Thyestes. 22:22, 4 May 2007 (UTC)
  • Brothers?-so that explains how Dupin has a copy of D--s seal!


In addition to the other novelties discussed in the article, Dupin's story of the boy using psychology to win a game is an early example of what we would now call "game theory". CharlesTheBold 04:58, 21 July 2007 (UTC)

Hmmm... if you have a source that links The Purloined Letter to "game theory," definitely add it in! --Midnightdreary 14:03, 21 July 2007 (UTC)

Some rearranging[edit]

I did some rearranging but not sure I'm fully convinced it worked. A lot of information under "Literary significance and criticism" was more like "Analysis," so I created that section and did some rearranging. I'll (hopefully) expand this section. If anyone has any sources, the leftover "Literary significance and criticism" should really include critical responses to the story. I'll see if I can find some. --Midnightdreary 22:07, 6 September 2007 (UTC)


How does one examine a table with a microscope? I presume what Poe really meant was a strong magnifying glass. The "green spectacles" are probably what we would call dark glasses. Does the plot summary need to adhere so closely to confusing Victorian terminology? CharlesTheBold (talk) 03:40, 29 July 2009 (UTC)

The microscope part is a good point but I don't know if I agree that "green spectacles" is that confusing, or Victorian, for that matter. --Midnightdreary (talk) 22:13, 29 July 2009 (UTC)

It's not unheard of to refer to a handheld magnifying device as a microscope, provided it has more than just one lens. I remember a rather old botany professor whose class I attended in the 1970s referred to his as such. I still have my 10X 'scope from that class: it measures a good bit less than 1" x 1" x 2" when folded (quite easy to carry in a pocket or on a chain), and must have at least two lenses. I suspect that Sherlock Holmes used one of these instead of a monstrously huge magnifying glass as usually depicted, and Dupin might have one as well. WHPratt (talk) 14:03, 6 June 2014 (UTC)

Scholarly opinion?[edit]

I find the two paragraph giving the opinions of Jacques Lacan, Jacques Derrida, Barbara Johnson, and Donald E. Pease to be more informative of their authors eccentric form of "scholarship" than about this short story. I question if they belongs in this article at all, and if so, if there is any other scholarship critical of this "analysis" that should be included for balance. The plain significance of the letter is that it was a private communication and the public exposure of its contents would embarrass its owner. Anyone who suggests it represents a phallus has real problems understanding the story. Should there be a comment that these opinions are far outside the mainstream of scholars of American literature? This discussion took place in Yale French Studies; is this a scholarly journal of American literature, or a place where "scholars" develop esoteric philosophical theories in their own ivory tower? If these paragraphs are to be retained largely as is, at minimum, I think the word "queens" at the end of the "Poe scholar Donald E. Pease" paragraph should be explained; is it supposed to mean "effeminate male homosexuals"?

If there is no comment here within two weeks, I will revert the "Literary significance and criticism" section to the version of 21:55, 27 May 2013‎ by WOSlinker. I believe that any more than that is undue weight to fringe theories. —Anomalocaris (talk) 06:37, 28 December 2014 (UTC)

In the Poe world, this debate is a huge part of discussions of "The Purloined Letter", even if this type of reading is no longer in vogue, and seems to merit the attention given to it in this article. I do agree, however, that the "queens" sentence might need better explanation. --Midnightdreary (talk) 16:50, 30 December 2014 (UTC)
Yes, teaching "The Purloined Letter" at the college level nearly always includes teaching the debates about the story as part of the story's cultural afterlife. The Pease quote could probably be cut because he is not well known as a scholar. -- (talk) 20:12, 4 March 2015 (UTC)