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

1.1. The Formula of the Detective Story

Cawelti states that Poe's essential contribution to the formula of the classical detective story has been "his invention of the character of Dupin" (Cawelti, 93)

... his aristocratic detachment, his brilliance and eccentricity, his synthesis of the poet's intuitive insight with the scientist's power of inductive reasoning, and his capacity for psychological analysis [are] essentially the same ... qualities that Doyle built into Sherlock Holmes. With minor differences of emphasis, they have remained the distinguishing characteristics of twentieth-century classical detectives like Hercule Poirot, Dr. Gideon Fell, Mr. Campion, Lord Peter Wimsey, Nero Wolfe, and many others (ibid.).

In almost no other genre than the classical detective story have there been such clearly established and defined rules. Ronald Knox, who published "A Detective Story Decalogue" in 1929, summarizes the general regulations of detective fiction. Despite the inherent irony of these rules, most of the crime writers up to this day stick to the given pattern. Hague declares that "both classical and hard-boiled detection posits that rational solutions can be found to human crimes, that mysteries are physically-based and accessible to the powers of the logical intellect" (Hague, 130).

C. Auguste Dupin has been the first detective who worked within the confines of those logical rules. Poe introduces the detective's genius mind at the very beginning of his short story "The Murders in the Rue Morgue". Dupin demonstrates this ability in a famous scene from this story. During a nocturnal walk Dupin reconstructs his companion's train of thought through an analysis of the I-narrator's gazes and gestures.7 Dupin's method of analysis and his applied ratiocination enable him to read other people's mind, or better, to deduce what has been thought by the other person merely through the study of their behavior. Yet, the classical detective, despite his abilities to analyze the inner life of his fellow men, never attempts to get to know and understand even his closest companion on a deeper emotional level.

Cawelti states that Dupin is a "brilliant and rather ambiguous figure who appears to have an almost magical power to expose and lay bare the deepest secrets" (94). The intuitive and emotional dimension is kept on a level of pure intellectual interest, always controlled and calculated by the detective in order to solve the given problem. However, "although Cawelti repeatedly and ambiguously refers to the classical detective's seemingly clairvoyant apprehension as 'aesthetic intuition', 'poetic insight', and 'transcendent intuition', he does not intimate that this mental power is anything other than heightened logical thinking which functions to restore rational order in the world" (Hague, 131).

Another crucial aspect of the classical detective's method is that he often has to concentrate on seemingly insignificant details. This appears as puzzling at first, yet it always turns out to be an effective maneuver that helps to solve the crime. The terms rationality and control are highly important for the psychology of the detective. The distance implied in these terms always has to be maintained in the classical detective story.

I will now comment on the (psychological) isolation of the classical detective, using the example of Poe's character C. Auguste Dupin. As a second step I will briefly summarize the pattern of the classical detective story, i.e. the narrative design of action and characters. Hereby I will concentrate, like the stories themselves, on the detective.

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7 We should note that, although Poe introduced the concept of ratiocination as the main motif of the detective story, he himself did obviously not belief in this pattern and merely used it as a stylistic means; in his letters he states that 'people think them more ingenious than they are - on account of their method and air of method"...The hair-splitting is all done for effect and the reader is made to confound the ingenuity of the superstitious Dupin with that of the writer of the story' (Ketterer, 253). Keeping this statement in mind, one might argue that Poe, although the creator of the basis for all detective fiction, was also the very first author to parody it at the same time, as he realized the borders and limits of an approach that merely uses the intellectual mind. Thus, the concept of the classical detective' s perfect mind has always been doubtful, and the rules, as introduced by writers like Knox, are themselves arbitrary and close to a hoax.

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