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"The Purloined Letter" By Edgar Allan Poe.

2540 words - 10 pages

Throughout "The Purloined Letter," Edgar Allan Poe contrasts the intuitive, poetic deduction of Dupin with the orderly, mathematical logic of the Prefect. When Dupin's poetic logic outwits the Prefect's, Poe appears to convey a triumph of literature over mathematics. However, this apparent triumph of literary logic is underscored by parallels between Dupin and the Minister. Both are characterized by images of "doubling" and both use identical methods to steal the letter. Yet, the Minister is depicted as a villain, while Dupin is conveyed as a brilliant hero. Despite Dupin's success in discovering the letter, when Poe mirrors Dupin to the Minister, he reveals the double sides of his character and thus the multiple meanings within literature. Ultimately, Poe conveys that the true value of the purloined letter is its power to represent multiple meanings of both good and evil.Throughout the story, Dupin's imprecise, circular, intuitive deduction is contrasted with the Prefect's orderly, mathematical logic. From the start, Dupin is surrounded by images of smoke. In the opening line of the story, he smokes a "meerschaum" pipe. The narrator comments that Dupin seems to be "intently and exclusively occupied with the curling eddies of smoke that oppressed the atmosphere of the chamber" (Poe,6). Later, Dupin speaks "amid a perfect whirlwind of smoke" (9). Smoke is an intangible, curling, whirling, rounded image, with a shape and form that continually change. The disorderliness of the image that repeatedly characterizes Dupin is emphasized most poignantly when smoke literally breaks up the linearity of his sentences; "Why--puff, puff--you might--puff, puff--employ counsel in the matter, eh?--- puff, puff, puff. Do you remember the story they tell us of Abernathy?" (13) The puffs of Dupin's pipe, with their rounded paths interrupt Dupin's linear sentence. They not only break up his words, they impact his thoughts and his logic, as well.Like the smoke that curls and whirls in the lines above, Dupin's logic is a circular, rounded deduction. His deduction is circular because it reflects thoughts from his mind into an analysis of his opponent's mind and back into his own, completing a type of reflective cycle. When Dupin launches into a discussion of his methods, he describes two games; evens and odds and a map-guessing game. Succeeding at the even and odds game relies upon "mere observation and measurements of the astuteness of his opponents" (25). This involves a reasoning that reflects the logic from the mind of the loser into the mind of the winner and back and forth, repeatedly. The same repetitive, circular technique is represented by the second game, in which the winning party enters the mind of the other player and anticipates that he will search for the smallest typed words on the map. A winner will then pick the biggest, most obvious word because he has internalized the anticipation of his opponent and can thus deceive him. This logic repeats back and...

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