Edgar Allen Poe's Short Story The Purloine Letter.

2355 words - 9 pages

Intrigue Amid RevolutionIn Edgar Allen Poe's The Purloined Letter, it is somewhat difficult to determine the exact historical period in which the story takes place. Poe's writing in general is known to be vague and mysterious, and this piece is no different. He uses the term "18--" which gives the century that story takes place, but in no way reveals the exact historical period that the story occurs. France underwent a number of extremely turbulent political and social revolutions during the Nineteenth Century, with changes in the attitudes of all social classes. However, by examining the details of the story it is possible to narrow down the timeframe in which the story takes place to a few years instead of a hundred. By looking at several key elements of the story we can deduce that the story takes place during the late reign of Napoleon Bonaparte.There are six major incidences in Purloined Letter which reveal that the story takes place in the Napoleonic age. One such instance is the fact that there is a king in the unstable period of history in France. A second is the way Dupin, as a member of the upper-middle class, reacts to events in the story. Another is the intrigue surrounding both the queen and her mysterious letter. The fourth revelation is the Prefect's position of authority. The fifth are the omitted names in Purloined Letter and the way in which G__ tells the story of the theft, and the sixth is the censorship apparent in the story.Gomez 2In the Nineteenth Century, France was still in turmoil from the Revolution of 1789. Between the start of the French Revolution and the beginning of the Nineteenth Century, France had already undergone radical changes, including the abdication of thethrone by Louise XVI, the abolishment of the Feudal Regime and thereby rejection of the aristocracy, as well as the Reign of Terror (Guerard 220). It was a new nation born in blood and injustice; where a class struggle raged while the country tried to form a new identity. In the 1800s, France saw the rise and fall of three Republics, two constitutional monarchies, as well as an experiment in socialism (220). It is because of all this unrest and upheaval that Poe can make his story that much more intriguing. There were conflicts on all levels, from personal to global, which affected all people in France, and which is reflected in the many levels of Poe's story. During Napoleon's reign this tension is especially apparent with the unrest brought on by an autocratic leader.It is important to note that the narrator and Dupin exist in the upper-middle class and are aware of the social and political problems of their time. In the introduction of Purloined Letter, the narrator describes himself as "enjoying the twofold luxury of meditation and a meerschaum" in his "friend C. Auguste Dupin ['s] little back library" (Poe 281). This is very significant for two reasons: the fact that Dupin owns a small library worth of books and that they have the time and luxury to...

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