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

2.2. The Red Room Dream / The Female Victim as Subject

Cooper and Laura in the Red Room In his dream Cooper meets Laura the victim who will inform him about the killer's identity. However, the solution will retain in his subconscious until much later in the series, when he will be enabled to enter this blurry subconscious state again. In terms of narrative this is a 'cliffhanger'17, in terms of Cooper's development it is necessary time that has to elapse in order for him to grow into his role as a new detective.

Cooper is not only introduced to the 'Red Room', but he even merges with the female victim in account of an 'elastic ego', a trait that characterizes intuitive types, according to C.G. Jung. Angela Hague defines this term as follows:

An 'elastic ego' is a characteristic feature of an intuitive type, which enables this person to fuse with all envisioned possibilities, even enabling this person to foresee the future (Hague, 137).

This description fits Cooper who can tell future events not from analytic deduction, as the classical detective, but from his intuitive ability. Cooper's willingness to indulge into the unconscious region of his mind leads to a visionary contact that goes hand in hand with an "ego loss that eliminates the boundaries separating the 'I' from the rest of the world, just as it dissolves the distinctions between subject and object" (136). Cooper does not "reduce detection to a narcissistic game of no-difference" (Irwin 70), but takes the investigation to his heart. Only complete physical and emotional (psychic) involvement can lead Cooper to a true solution. In terms of the narrative it is also striking that the solution is delivered to him, yet Cooper forgets it right after waking up. This incident is essential for Cooper's development as a new serial detective. In a mental state of inner balance Cooper dreams himself into the Red Room and enjoys waiting for a revelation. Thus, the solution to the murder mystery is delivered to Cooper at the very beginning, but it seems that Cooper is striving for a greater achievement, i.e. focusing beyond the (narrative) board on a bigger game.

This definition is crucial for Cooper's contact with Laura Palmer in his dream. His ability stands in harsh contrast to the classical detective who not only seals himself off from the outside world, paradoxically to analyze it even more precisely, but also refuses to see the female victim as a subject. The rationale of the classical detective prevents him from an active engagement with the sphere he investigates. Cooper, on the other hand, is eager and willing to let go of rational thinking in order to fuse with his subconscious region. He (and the viewer of TP) are rewarded for that with a highly unconventional, cryptic, yet not meaningless dream vision that takes Cooper into another sphere of experience.

I will now examine this strange space, this place between two worlds, keeping in mind that an ultimate explanation cannot and shall not be possible in a realm that deliberately violates the codes of spoken language. The Red Room denies rational meaning, as it is always present and demanded in conventional detective mysteries, where "the logical construct dissolves the enigma of the body, and the masculine principle ... creates the desired order" (Nochimson, 'Passion', 89).

In the realm of his dream, Cooper finds himself sitting in one of three art deco upholstered chairs. These chairs are set up in a room, which is on all sides surrounded by red drapes. Besides the chairs the room contains a Grecian white marble statue, the floor beneath is tiled in an Escherlike geometric pattern. Seated in the other two chairs are a dwarf dressed in a pink tuxedo (identified in the end title sequence as 'The Man from Another Place') and Laura Palmer, "dressed in an evening gown much like a costume from a 1940s B- picture" (Nochimson, 151).

Both Laura and the Man from Another Place engage in enigmatic backwards talk, only Cooper can be heard in his normal voice. After a series of strangely coded messages, the little man starts to dance, while Laura approaches Cooper. She kisses him and whispers the solution to the murder mystery in his ears:

The Red Room is a place where everything that has always been true of onscreen murder mysteries ... is inverted. Cooper's site of discovery resembles the site of crime in ordinary detective stories: a place where no action can be identified in terms of pragmatic or logical purpose. (ibid.)

Indeed, it seems as though TP had translated the latent symbolism of a classical story like "Murders in the Rue Morgue" into overt dream images. The Red Room resembles the locked room in the classical detective story as a sight of mystery, a metaphysical equivalence to the sight of crime, where physical clues are replaced by cryptic dream images. However, in "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" the dead female body was merely another object among details, like a window, a nail, or a spring becoming a part of the puzzle. The logic of Dupin's detection has been unraveled as a fear of the female body, a denial of the fact that, in the end, there is an odd sameness of female victim and male detective. We should note that this was achieved through a psychoanalytical reading of the detective story, whereas TP seems to be (self) aware of the psychoanalytical dimension. Dream symbols thus become overt metaphors within the text and do not have to be hidden in a latent subtext.

In his dream, it seems, Cooper is not afraid to merge with his object of inquiry, in fact "there is pleasure when Cooper gains knowledge through merging with her [the victim] she tells him the name of her murderer when she kisses him but the desire satisfied in the kiss is a compound of his desire to understand and her desire to communicate" (ibid.)18. Again, Cooper's eager desire to learn and expand his knowledge correspond with his freedom from fear of the female, and therefore of his own body:

Unlike the femme fatale, Laura is neither sexualized nor desexualized object. She is another subject ... As Laura is not object, she is not the detective's impediment ['not the conventional detective's nightmare of what his body could become should he lose control', Nochimson, 'Passion', 90]. Cooper is hampered by his own limits. Her illegibility is not the displacement of his own, but the corollary of his need to understand his body. (Nochimson, 'Desire', 152)

For a telling moment the detective in TP is willing and able to merge with the female body. In this brief instant Cooper is, at least in the subconscious dream state, able to apply his method of mind-body coordination. Nonetheless, it is also telling that Cooper forgets the solution of the mystery after waking up from the dream state. It appears as though the contact with Laura and the Man from Another Place have more prominence than the identity of the murderer. After waking up, Cooper calls the local sheriff to tell him that he knows who killed Laura Palmer. Instead of remembering the solution, however, he snaps his fingers to the sound of music that still reverberates in his 'dream mind'. His facial expression clearly reminds of the formerly discussed Bi-Part Soul.

It seems as though Cooper had been given a glance into an otherworldly sphere that outweighs the question of the killer's identity. Again, Cooper's reaction appears as puzzling because he does not behave in accordance to the mastermind who delivers the ultimate solution. As early as in the third episode TP makes clear that solution equals termination, a truth that the series tries to avoid by delaying a finite answer as long as possible.

We identified Cooper as an intuitive type with an elastic ego, a Jungian explanation for Cooper's ability to merge with the victim in his dream. According to Hague, an elastic ego also enables a gifted person to foresee the future. We will find that Cooper is, indeed, seeing an abstracted version of future events in his dream, events that take place in the so-called 'Black Lodge'19. In order to regain his subconscious and intuitive knowledge about the murderer Cooper will have to rely on the help of this other sphere.

It is worthwhile to remember that Cooper becomes part of the mysterious terrain he investigates, in contrast to the classical detective who merely combines various clues similar to the distant psychoanalyst deciphering someone else's dream symbols. Cooper decodes his personal dream symbols in order to 'break the code and solve the crime' (Lavery, 4.1). The code turns out to be a message from the Lodge, which could be referred to as the archaic center of mystery in TP. In order to bring the solution, hitherto hidden in his subconscious, back to light, Cooper will have to rely on outside help from prenatural entities. It appears to be a higher supernatural sphere that controls Cooper. The dream images from the detective's subconscious thus play an active part in solving the crime. Cooper seems to make a deal with these fantastic element, allowing them to enter the sphere of the detection process and ,thus, to violate the rules of the common detective story.

A Giant (also send from the Lodge) will enable Cooper to break the code and solve the crime. I will now investigate the role of that Giant and how he will help Cooper to solve the Palmer murder mystery. The solution will combine the influence of the supernatural, as well as Cooper's psychic abilities and his intuitive Tibetan method. Nevertheless, we will find that solution (of the murder plot) will not mean termination (of the series), but a widening of the show's canvas.

The appearance of the Giant is another encounter between Cooper and his subconscious. Thus, I will first analyze this vision under psychological aspects in 2.3, before I return to narrative issues in 2.4.

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17 "A suspenseful situation at the end of a chapter, a scene, or an episode" (American Heritage Dictionary.Boston; New York; London, 1992)

18 Michael J. Anderson (the vertically challenged actor who portrays the Man from Another Place) states in an interview that "when Agent Cooper first arrived, his primary experience was that he was learning about Laura Palmer, but the truth of it was, he was falling in love with her. So when he went into the [Red Room] - which is like your subconscious - there was the little man [saying] there's always music in the air and pretty songs, because Cooper was falling in love with her." (Anderson-Interview, WIP 15, 3)

19 His dream will then, with the information from later episode, turn out as more of a vision or prophecy send to him by this Black Lodge. Cooper's subconscious is revealing itself, but it will take him the necessary time (episodes) to catch up with the 'reality' of the Lodges.[ comp. Wilcox: "[Deputy] Hawk says that in the legends of his people, one meets in this lodge a 'shadow self' whom they call 'the dweller on the threshold.' It is a place of testing ... Cooper is eventually tested in this lodge. The lodge is the locus of much of the series' otherworldly border crossing... it also turns out to be the place of Cooper's mystic red-curtained dream." (Wilcox, WIP, 22)]

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