© 2016 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.
The Purloined Letter

The Purloined Letter


by Edgar Allan Poe

The Purloined Letter Questions

Bring on the tough stuff - there’s not just one right answer.

  1. Why does everyone in the story seem so uninterested in what the letter actually contains? Is there any good reason to assume that the scandal is sexual in nature?
  2. What kind of practical advice does the story seem to offer about reason, logic, and emotion? Does it really seem to be recommending the approach of a combined poet and mathematician?
  3. How truthful is the narrator? At what moments in the story might he seem less than truthful? From what motivations does he appear to be operating?
  4. What role does imagination play in the story? At what point do characters appear to be using (or misusing) their imaginations?
  5. What effect does Poe appear to achieve by telling the story using primarily dialogue instead of action? Why might he choose to tell the story in such a way?
  6. Why are the characters not fully developed? Are they supposed to be real characters, or are they simply talking heads that Poe is using to develop ideas?
  7. What elements of this story seem similar to Poe's usual murder-and-mayhem style? Can we call this horror or gothic, or is it pure detection? How could the two genres be related?

People who Shmooped this also Shmooped...