The City of Absurdity Papers & Essayes
The Detective in 'Twin Peaks'  by Andreas Blassmann

1.2. The Classical Detective's Mind and the Setting

Dupin and his companion create their own artificial environment, they are "enamored by the night for her own sake" (Poe, 65). They close the curtain during daytime and they only go out at night. They almost never leave the apartment and Dupin solves the crime by merely reconstructing second hand information. But the artificial environment does not stop here: it is mirrored, or repeated, in the scene of crime. In "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" we are confronted with the classical case of the 'locked-room mystery'. Cawelti has outlined the important functions of this setting:

First of all, it furnishes a limited and controlled backdrop against which the clues and suspects so central to the story can be silhouetted. It abstracts the story from the complexity and confusion of the larger social world and provides a rationale for avoiding the consideration of those more complex problems of social injustice and group conflict that form the basis of much contemporary realistic fiction (97).

In his in-depth psychological analysis of the three Dupin stories John T. Irwin rightly states that

it is sufficient to note that the central topic ... grows out of the allegory of the cave's valorizing of mind at the expense of the body, that is, out of Poe's sense of his detective Dupin as a kind of Platonic embodiment, a sedentary mastermind whose very lack of physical exertion emphasizes the mastery of mind over the material world (Irwin, Introduction xvi).

It is indeed important that Poe seems to have written the detective stories in the first place to demonstrate the brilliance and sufficiency of a perfect mind, wishful thinking of a miraculous mind machine, a being that is purely brain and nothing else. The general seclusion of the setting and the story itself can easily be read as a metaphor for the detective's concealed mind. The genius of the detective has to be seen in opposition to the outside world, as if it had to be worshipped and praised. This happens by means of the I-narration; a stylistic component that helps to keep a distance from the god-like omniscience of the detective. Dupin does not have to physically go to the scene of crime, he re-constructs it in his mind, but Poe suggests that this does not really matter, as the distinction between the physical and the psychological sphere blurs within the story.

Normally the detective hero is introduced at the very beginning of the plot, in an episode that demonstrates the brilliance of his deductive mind and ensures the reader that he will be sure to solve the mystery, however intricate and complicated it may be. According to Dorothy Sayers it is this reassurance that "the ultimate mystery of life and death will be solved for us" (Cawelti, 98) that causes people to indulge into mystery stories in the first place. As often with popular fiction it has the function to distract and entertain an audience making sure that easy solutions will be in reach. "Poe's Dupin stories explored the terms in which the secret depths might be brought under control and the sense of hidden guilt and insecurity overcome" (104). This can only be achieved through the intellectual hero who takes the reader by the hand and leads him through the confusions of the plot, until he finally redeems society's guilt by naming the killer who can then be punished in the name of the people.

In the classical detective story, the detective takes the center of the action. All the other characters, or better types, are peripheral to his genius mind. This leads directly to the importance of the plot, if not to say its dominance over psychological development. Neither the detective's psyche, nor those of the other players seem to be essential. The detective's persona circles merely around the "unriddling of the riddle" (Poe, 80). The other persons, and the environment in which they appear, vanish once the mystery is solved. In other words, the narrative process itself becomes the driving force in the detective story.

Cawelti distinguishes six main phases within the detective story pattern:

(a) introduction of the detective; (b) crime and clues; (c) investigation; (d) announcement of the solution; (e) explanation of the solution; (f) denouement. (Cawelti, 82)8

After the solution the detective leaves the setting and returns to his secluded apartment. However, if one takes a closer look at the traditional settings of crime fiction, one will find that these places appear as sealed off and isolated, in order to distinguish them from the outside world and to offer the detective the best possible working conditions:

[The] setting performs many functions ... it abstracts the story from the complexity and confusion of the larger social world and provides a rationale for avoiding the consideration of those more complex problems of social injustice and group conflict that form the basis of much contemporary realistic fiction ... The isolated setting has remained popular with classical detective story writers for another reason. It establishes a framework for the treatment of manners and local color ... these pageants of local color provide both an air of verisimilitude and an added source of interest to the main theme of investigation, in addition they symbolize the normally peaceful and serene order of society disrupted by the anomaly of crime and restored when the detective isolates the guilty individual. (97f.)

I will return to the detective and his object of investigation in Chapter 2.1 under another psychological aspect, namely the male detective's rejection of the female (dead) body. "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" take place within a confined setting that resembles the detective's residence. I will hint at the parallel that exists between the detective's mind and the secluded scene of crime. All of that will be done in firm comparison with the detective in TP. Now I want to ponder the social aspect of the setting in TP in relation to the investigator.

8 I will partially use these phases in the analysis of the Murder Mystery plot in TP.

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