Beware! “The Purloined Lette” synopsis below does contain spoilers! This summary is meant to be a helpful recap for students after they have read the book. Or, a useful refresher for teachers to help them decide if they would like to use this story in the classroom.
The story begins in the home office of private investigator C. Auguste Dupin, while he and his friend, an unnamed narrator, entertain the Prefect of the Paris Police, Monsieur G. The Prefect has come to Dupin again in need of help. Monsieur G has a case which he cannot solve, involving a purloined (stolen) letter. Without hesitation, Dupin is able to tell the Prefect exactly where the letter is, solely based on the description of the case.
According to the Prefect, a young lady (it is implied she is royalty) was in possession of a letter which contained damaging information. As she read it in her suite, an “exalted personage” from whom she wished to hide the letter, and a certain “Minister D”, entered the room. While the letter almost went unnoticed, Minister D saw it and discerned that it contained damning information. The minister switched the letter with a similar one of no consequence, and has since been blackmailing her.
At the direction of this powerful lady, Monsieur G has repeatedly searched every inch of the Minister’s house and office, with no results. Without hesitation Dupin tells the Prefect that the letter is indeed still in the minister's apartment. With a large reward at stake for its return, the Prefect leaves Dupin to go search again. After a month the Prefect returns to Dupin’s and says he cannot find the letter. At which point Dupin produces the letter and explains how he retrieved it.
Knowing the minister, Dupin placed himself in the minister's shoes. He knew that he would keep it close to him and that he was intelligent to know where the police would look for it. Therefore, he hid it in plain sight, slightly disguised as a letter of his own. Dupin then went to speak with the minister, purposely leaving behind his tobacco box, so that he could return. When he did, he had arranged a commotion outside the minister’s window at the same time, so that he could swipe the letter and replace it with another, much like the minister did.
It is so easy to use our assignment wizard to create your own activity from scratch. All you have to do is: give your assignment a title, add directions, provide a template and send it to your students! You can even use any of the storyboards you see within our activities as examples by quickly and easily copying and customizing them for your intended purpose. Don't forget to look through our thousands of worksheet and poster templates as well! You can add as many templates to an assignment as you'd like!
Storyboard That is an excellent tool for students to create fun and engaging projects as a culminating activity after finishing a novel or poem. In addition to our premade activities, here are some ideas that teachers can customize and assign to students to spark creativity in individual students, pairs, or small groups for a final project. Several of these ideas include Storyboard That templates that can be printed out or copied into your teacher dashboard and assigned digitally. All final projects can be printed out, presented as a slide show, or, for an extra challenge, as an animated gif!
Extend and enhance your students' knowledge of Poe and his works by conducting an Author Study. Students can research more about Edgar Allan Poe, read his various stories and poems and make connections to his life and the time period. Students can use storyboards to analyze his work, his style, prevalent themes and more!
"Words have no power to impress the mind without the exquisite horror of their reality.”
- Edgar Allan Poe, "The Fall of the House of Usher", 1839
Edgar Allan Poe was an American short-story writer, poet, critic, and editor. He is internationally known as a literary genius. Some of his most famous poems and short stories, like “The Purloined Letter”, are dark tales of grief, mystery, macabre and the supernatural.
Some of the most famous works by Edgar Allan Poe in order of their publication are: "The Fall of the House of Usher" (1839), "The Masque of the Red Death" (1842), "The Pit and the Pendulum" (1843), "The Tell-Tale Heart" (1843), "The Black Cat" (1843), "The Purloined Letter" (1844), "The Raven" (1845), "The Cask of Amontillado" (1846), and "The Bells" (1848). All are considered literary classics today.
Poe was born January 19, 1809 in Boston, Massachusetts. His life was fraught with tragedy from an early age. His father, David Poe, Jr. abandoned the family when Poe was just a baby. Poe's mother, English-born Elizabeth Arnold Poe, was a well-liked actress who tragically died of tuberculosis when Poe was only 3 years old. He carried an image of his mother throughout his life.
Poe was taken in by John Allan, a successful tobacco merchant in Richmond, VA and his wife, Frances Allan. While Poe was sadly separated from his siblings William and Rosalie, he was afforded the opportunity of a good education and was doted upon by Mrs. Allan, who had no children of her own. Poe showed great promise with writing at an early age but was discouraged by his foster father who preferred he go into the family business.
It is said that Poe had a loving relationship with his foster mother but sadly, Mrs. Allan, too, died of tuberculosis when Poe was a young man. Poe had a difficult relationship with his strict foster father. Mr. Allan helped Poe attend the University of Virginia for one year and later the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, but otherwise he and Poe had a tumultuous relationship. Mr. Allan did little to help Poe financially and even left Poe out of his will. Despite his talents as a writer, Poe struggled with money, gambling, alcohol, and poor health throughout his life.
At the University of Virginia, Poe impressed his classmates with his talents as both a writer and an artist. While away at school, Poe's fiancee, Sarah Elmira Royster became engaged to another. Heartbroken, in 1827, Poe moved to Boston where he published his first pamphlet of poems followed by another volume in 1829 in Baltimore. In 1833, Poe published the short story, "MS. Found in a Bottle" and in 1835, he became the editor of the "Southern Literary Messenger" in Richmond. Having finally found a stable profession, Poe was then married to his much younger cousin, Virginia Clemm.
Poe was known as a harsh and combative critic at the "Southern Literary Messenger" and his stint there didn't last long. His reputation as being antagonistic was well known and he even had a feud with another famous poet of his day, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Poe bounced around, working for various other magazines and journals and in 1844 he moved to New York City with his wife, Virginia. Despite his numerous publications prior, it wasn't until he published "The Raven" in 1845 that he was finally considered a popular literary star of his day. So much so that Poe's nickname even became, "The Raven". It was published in "The Evening Mirror" where Poe worked as a critic and it became an overnight sensation. While the publication of "The Raven" brought Poe great acclaim and fame, it did not bring him any fortune. In fact, he earned a mere $14.00 for it. Having lived most of his life impoverished despite steadily working, Poe was an advocate for better wages for writers.
When Poe wrote "The Raven" he was foreshadowing the loss of his own beloved. On January 30, 1847, in a tragic twist of fate, Poe's young wife, Virginia, died of tuberculosis at the age of 24 - the same age his mother was when she died and the same cause of death as both his mother and foster mother. Poe fell into a deep depression and although he continued to work, suffered poor health, both mental and physical. Poe did manage to write an ode to his lost love called, "Annabel Lee".
Poe was known to have abused alcohol and was said to have looked pale and sickly in the days leading up to his death. It is unknown the exact cause of Poe's death. Some suspect foul play, others believe that it was actually rabies that led to his early demise. He was found delirious and semi-conscious on the streets of Baltimore, Maryland and died in the hospital on October 7, 1849 at the age of 40. Poe's final words were, "Lord, help my poor soul."
Edgar Allan Poe is remembered as a singular talent of imaginative storytelling. His works helped define the Romanticism and American Gothic Literary Movements of his time and he is recognized as one of the first authors of detective fiction. His works continue to influence many books and movies today. Despite his sorrowful life, his legacy lives on.