Application of Structuralism --- Analyzing "The Purloined Letter"
The center of "The purloined Letter" is a quest for a missing letter. The whole story happens in two places primarily: one is C. Auguste Dupin*s little back library; the other is the hotel Minister D lives in. There are six characters in the story. Only one is a woman, the queen, and the others are all men, including C. Auguste Dupin, a guy who is good at analyzing things and making inferences; his friend, the narrator of the story whose name is unknown; Monsieur G, the Prefect of the Parisian police; and Minnister D. D stole the queen*s love letter and knew her secret of affair. He used this to threaten the queen to listen to his command. In order to stop D and get back her own power, the queen asked G to help her get back the letter surreptitiously. However, because G overlooked the complication of the case, he failed to find his target, no matter how hard he had tried. As a result, he turned to Dupin and the narrator to seek for some good suggestions. Dupin saw the complication of the case and tried another way to infer the possible place where the letter was hidden. Finally, he got the letter back from D and helped G to complete his mission.
Actually, it is easy to find that three binary oppositions help to build the story. The first one is "simple" V.S. "complex". There are many examples expressing this kind of "verse." For instances, at the beginning of the story, G declared that Dupin*s nations were always "odd" with an attitude of steering. This showed that he didn*t agree with Dupin and his odd nations for they were far beyond his comprehension. He preferred (or believed in) his own ideas which were more normal (more simple) in his eyes. This might also reveal G*s habit of being used to simplifying things and Dupin*s habit of looking at things from different points of view and more detailed side. G thought that his mission of finding out the letter was very simple, but actually it is very complicated, for G had mislook D. D was not as simple as he thought, instead of that, D got double identities of being both a mathematician and a poet who had great creativity to think of a definitely special place to hide the letter. Compared with G*s attitude, Dupin inferred the whole case from a more complex point of view, for he recognized the complication of the case by knowing D*s double identities. D*s identities complicated the case but also simplified it for Dupin to solve it successfully in the end. It was very ironic that when D talked to Dupin face to face, he didn*t recognize the real identity of Dupin ( the complex side of him ) but thought Dupin*s identity was just as simple as what he was informed.
Because, the second binary---"hiding" V.S. "revealing" is very much related to the third one---"power" V.S. "powerless," it is more convenient to look at their examples together. In the story, almost every one had hid something from some people and revealed something to some people. For example, D hid the letters from the queen and any other people, but he also let the queen know that the letter was stolen by him in order to get power; G hid the letter*s secret for the queen, but he also revealed it to Dupin and the narrator for asking their help; Dupin hid his real identity from D, but he also kind of revealed it in the end of the story, and he also revealed the process of how he got the letter back from D to the narrator; the queen revealed the letter*s matter to G, and at last, she also hid the letter from D once more and got back her power again. The narrator is the most interesting one, for his hiding is not much related to the case---he hid his name from the readers. We can find that once the person gets secrets in his hand (hiding something from others), he became powerful for he got the right to speak; however, after he reveals the secrets, his power was gone immediately. All these kinds of circles of power-lost and power-back ; hiding and revealing is really the main structure of the whole story.
Application of Semiotics---Analyzing a myth
A myth contains a signifier, signified and a sign. In myth, signifiers are just sings which include two parts: one is meaning; the other is form. The meaning will be emptied out or twisted to fill in new ideas. Take a famous cigarette advertisement for example, in the advertisement of Marlbore cigarettes, there is always a picture of a good-looking cowboy riding a fine horse quickly and wildly passing through a flat piece of open country. Usually, the word "Marlbore" will also show up with the light red color which makes you feel extremely excited and cool. You will feel that the cowboy in the picture is the real man, the man of men. And here, the advertisement tries to create a myth of Marlbore cigarettes; it tries to convince the receivers of the image that as long as you smoke with Marlbore cigarettes, you will become a real man or (as long as your boyfriends or husbands smoke with Marlbore cigarettes, they will be the real men. ) Here, the major signifier is the cowboy riding the fine horse. It contains lots of meanings originally, such as that he is a human being; he will get sick and die, and if he smokes, his lung will be seriously hurt and thus he will die even much sooner*etc.. However, all those meanings were emptied out or twisted; only the meaning of his good-looking face, his coolness and boldness are left, which is the exact messages the myth tries to inform the receivers, in other words, its signifiers. The bad points of smoking are twisted to a manly man*s cool image, and that is a myth of Marlbore cigarettes.