In "The Purloined Letter", explain how Poe characterizes Monsieur G of police.

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It is clear that Poe is none to complimentary regarding Monsieur G. of the French Police. From the start there are somewhat dismissive remarks made about his limitations. For example, consider how the narrator comments upon Monsieur G's comment of Dupin's that he finds it easier to reflect in darkness:

"That is another of your odd notions," said the Prefect, who had a fashion of calling every thing "odd" that was beyond his comprehension, and thus lived amid an absolute legion of "oddities."

The inference is clear - there are lots of things that are "beyond his comprehension", and because he lives amidst a "legion of oddities" his ability to comprehend is obviously not that impressive or powerful.

However, it is clear that Monsieur G. does have his strengths. As Dupin begins to reveal how he gained the letter to his friend, he does say:

"The Parisian police... are exceedingly able in their way. They are persevering, ingenious, cunning and thoroughly versed in the knowledge which their duties seem chiefly to demand. Thus when G. detailed to us his method of searching the premises at the Hotel D., I felt entire confidence in his having made a satisfactory investigation - so far as his labours extended."

Dupin continues to support this by saying all the extensive measures that Monsieur G. took were "carried out to perfection" and that if the letter had been placed where they were looking they would have found it. However, Monsieur G.'s greatest failing in this case was his inability to think outside the box and consider other alternatives. This is what led to his failure to recover the letter - his lack of perception and comprehension.

So whilst Monsieur G. is a diligent, hard-working Prefect who is good at his job, he lacks a crucial element of imagination and wider perspective that separates him from the greatness of Dupin.

Read the study guide:
The Purloined Letter

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