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

3.3. The Gothic Villain's Mind and the Setting

I will now have a look at Windom Earle, as I present him as a character who stands in the tradition of the Gothic villain. Earle is clearly ascribed to characteristic traits of that literary type. Formerly the good mentor and teacher of Cooper, Earle has gone insane over Cooper's affection for and affair with his wife Caroline, whom he killed. From that point on, Earle has drifted into insanity, spinning a continuous web of evil and increasing madness around him. In the tradition of the Gothic villain, he is constantly merging with the population, however, always covering his true face under differing masks:

Cooper's nemesis, Windom Earle, similarly illustrates the shifty, phantom character, for with his talent for disguise he can be anywhere and anyone. In fact, in the second season he seems an almost constant background presence, his disguises letting him, discomfittingly, blend in completely with the populace of Twin Peaks (Telotte, 167)

Publicly, Earle appears solely in disguise. His true face (if there is such a thing) can only be observed in his home, a wooden cottage in midst of Ghostwood forest. As in the Gothic tradition, Earle's isolation in his hut becomes a metaphor for his inner dementia. In Gothic fiction, the villain is usually associated with the building he inhabits, a castle in most Gothic stories:

The first characteristic of such a villain is his isolation. He who cuts himself off from virtue divides himself from his fellow man. The evil in him, moreover, by also cutting him off from his own 'nature', causes him to suffer a continual psychomachia. (MacAndrew, 85)

Earle's character seems restricted, as he retreats into isolation, both spatially and mentally. In contrast to Cooper, who applied the natural environment of the TP woods in his Tibetan method, Earle merely (ab)uses the natural surroundings:

A gloomy adult glowering out of his isolation, the Gothic villain is a complex battleground where evil makes war with Nature. He is consequently less passive than heroes and heroines. Necessarily, he is the aggressor, the oppressor of his innocent victim, and can be involved in action without detracting from the structure of the novel as a reflection of the mind. He is the storm that breaks over the calm virtue of the world. (MacAndrew, 83)

An uncanny reenactment of past events is foreshadowed in Earle's arrival and the following repetition of the Oedipal drama (also a common motif in many a Gothic story). Unlike his 'son' Cooper (and the TP narrative), Earle favorizes closure over disclosure. He brings past events into play, in order to carry Cooper's and his own narrative to an end. I have stated that Cooper loses his position as the investgative force. The oblique and often arbitrary detective, who has yet been an omniscient, in control investigator of the Palmer murder mystery, has vanished. With the dominance of the Earle revenge plot, it appears as though Windom is taking over the role of the protagonist, i.e. the one in charge of the plot movement. Earle's madness replaces the mild schizophrenia of Cooper, as I observed it in chapter 1.4.

Earle does not merely have a Bi-Part Soul; he has countless differing masks instead. In fact, the term Gothic villain can only partially describe the many allusions that this character consists of.. He is also a 'serial killer', a 'Moriarty figure', a 'trickster' and a father figure for Cooper. It is interesting to note that Earle is only faking his madness, obviously trying to cover up his real mission, i.e. the quest for the Lodge (the solution for what Cooper calls the 'bigger game'). Here, Earle's postmodern character is revealed: He can only exist behind masks, forever hiding his true face and allowing no insight into his psyche. Beneath his artificial makeup lies the conventional wish to bring his revenge plot to an end. In his striving for closure, his desire to resolve a story of the past, he very much resembles the aims of the traditional detective figure, as I introduced it with the example of Edgar Allen Poe's character Auguste Dupin.

Earle forces Cooper into a lethal chess game, in which every move might lead to an actual termination of a Soap Opera character. Nevertheless, Cooper's remark that Earle believes 'all of life could be found in the patterns and conflicts on the board' (Lavery, 22.8) does not provide a more detailed view of the Earle character. Earle's obsession with chess appears just as another cover-up action to conceal his true aims.28 The chess game, as so many storylines in TP, is merely another red herring and will soon be dropped, when Windom Earle starts to play 'off the board' (28. 1). Traditional story patterns like the 'chess plot' abound towards the end of 'Twin Peaks', a fact that Nochimson ascribes to Mark Frost's heavy influence on the latter episodes. She complains that

Frost focused almost exclusively on a Holmes / Moriarty antagonism. With Cooper as the prototype of Holmes and Earle as the prototype of Moriarty in one form of an estranged older mentor, the series became a conventional saga of the father-son bond. (Nochimson, Passion, 77)29

In the following section I will investigate the essential differences between Earle and Cooper, hereby applying Angela Hague's and James P. Carse's distinction between 'finite' and 'infinite' players.

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28 This plot appears as a parody of the logical rules of chess, as the game does not make sense and the moves that are made on the board do not match into the continuity of the plot line (Miller, WIP 4, 2 - 8). This narrative flaw links the chess game in TP to Poe's metaphor of chess vs. draughts in his initial remarks in "The Murders in the Rue Morgue". Poe's comments on chess appear as parodistic and reveal that self-referential aspect of the metaphor . Irwin observes that "as anyone who has played both chess and draughts knows, the narrator's comments on the two games are largely nonsense. His discourse is simply a ploy to associate the differential opposition between simplicity and complexity with the whole question of analyzing the analytic power." (Irwin, 82)

29 In terms of genre I would even go one step further and propose that the Earle revenge plot not only alludes to Doyle's Holmes-Moriarty antagonism, but also to Poe's creation of the detective story out of the Gothic tradition. Earle seems like a backwards movement from the former detective genius to the villainy of the Gothic madman.

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