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

4.2. Cooper as Gothic Hero in the Black Lodge

When Cooper actually enters the Lodge he is not able to perceive purely anymore, his vision is blinded. In Chapter 2.2 I observed how Cooper gains pleasure from his merging with Laura, the dead female victim. This trial run for the Lodges happened in another narrative section and in another psychological sphere, i.e. the dream. Now, Cooper's elastic ego seems to have shrunk in order of his emotional connection with Annie Blackburne. Cooper's heroic status has been reduced through the finite player Earle's mental limitations.

Cooper ability for boundary crossing is almost completely erased. The openminded, feminine ability that guided Cooper in his Red Room dream is turned into its opposite in the Lodge. The fear that befalls Cooper in the maze of the Lodge could associate the detective with the female heroine in a Gothic tale. In his study on the Gothic, William Patrick Day compares the traditional detective to the heroine in gothic fiction. For Day

the answer lies in his ability to reconcile the qualities of the male protagonist with those of the Gothic heroine. Like her the detective is essentially a reactive character. Neither figure initiates action; instead they respond to the actions of others. Unlike the Gothic heroine, though, the detective's is not submissive or passive but analytic; where she accepts and endures, he frees himself through understanding. (Day, 55)

In his comparison of the detective and the Gothic heroine, Day thinks of the classical detective, yet the parallels to Agent Cooper in his Red Room dream are evident. There, Cooper seems passive, yet he is attentive and willing to learn from the actions of Laura and the dancing midget. In contrast to the traditional male detective who appears to reject physicality, Cooper developed an ability to decode the language of the body. In his dream, Cooper does not analyze in a rational sense, but he still understands the cryptic bodily sign language. In the Lodge, Cooper resembles the gothic hero / heroine who, according to Day, "are simply too afraid of what they will discover. Moreover, what they fear is also what they desire, and they cannot accept the unity of these two things"(ibid.).

The essence of the dream analysis has been that Cooper, in contrast to the rational detective, enjoys and welcomes to merge with the female element. Cooper's desire to understand and expand his mind were of central importance for the new detective. Now, openness will lead to blindness, and fear will become Cooper's guideline through the Black Lodge. Fear (of the body) stands in firm connection with the desire to gain rational control:

For the male protagonist, whose impulse is to continue his attempt to dominate and control the Gothic world, to conquer fear by achieving the object of desire, the enthrallment can only deepen with each action, for all objects of desire become objects of fear, and all objects of fear become objects of desire. (Day, 25)

Fear and desire are fused in the Gothic tale; it seems as though they would also fuse within Cooper during his visit in the Black Lodge. In the sphere of the Black Lodge, Cooper seems to resemble the Gothic heroine, unable to act or even to react in account of a lack of understanding. Cooper's soul maid from his Red Room dream, Laura Palmer as metaphysical subject, turns out as a vicious object who screams at him in a shrill voice that frightens him.

Laura appears to him now as violent, hostile and dangerous... when Cooper runs from her, he discovers he is bleeding ... the iconography of vacant eyes...suggests an experience of emptiness where once there was fullness. The benign meeting of subjects has turned into the hostile encounter of subject and object. The bleeding contrasts with Cooper's previous wound, when there was no fear and there was vision. (Nochimson, 157)

In the Black Lodge, physical pain is preceded by a display of fear. Cooper experiences an inversion and perversion of his former abilities. In chapter 2.3 I analyzed how Cooper experiences a vision after being shot in the belly. In that instance the pain lead to an appearance of the friendly Giant who helped Cooper to detect. The Giant vision had been a result of Cooper's Freedom from Fear. Then, pain did not cause panic. Instead, Cooper had been successful in combining the physical wounding and his mental readiness for vision. Now, it seems that Cooper's former ability to keep an inner balance through mind-body coordination has eroded. In his Giant vision, Cooper's paralysis was merely physical, in the Black Lodge it becomes mental. Laura, the former object of desire, becomes an object of fear. The desire for Laura's double (filled with secrets) turns into a frightful confrontation with Cooper's repressed maleness, triggered of by a retreat to conventional beliefs.

During Cooper's involvement with the Gothic Soap Opera plot, Annie has replaced Laura in Cooper's perception. Shortly before the entrance into the Lodge, Annie has given a speech on the significance of the self and the 'internal land' that has to be respected. Annie's literal verbalization of subconscious realities might be read as the direct opposition to the bodily appearance of the dead Laura within the Lodge, where the logic of language is replaced through an abstracted lingual sign system. The virginal character of Annie Blackburne is opposed to the femme fatale Laura Palmer. Cooper, as a Gothic hero trying to save his beloved Annie, necessarily has to fail in the 'reality' of the Lodge. Rather than a new detective hero who experiences the Lodge as a testing ground for his beliefs, Cooper gives up his role as a receptive subject and deliberately turns himself into a sacrificial object whose sole purpose is to save the woman he loves. Cooper is overwhelmed by the fear that past events could happen again. Thus, his mind is set on the consequences of the Gothic Soap Opera plot. His encompassing anxiety does not enable him to understand the Lodge's sign system anymore.

Cooper has been able to decode the dwarf's cryptic messages in his Red Room dream and gained pleasure from his contact with Laura, partially because he was accepting the arbitrary rules of the subconscious mind working. However, he cannot apply his intuitive knowledge in the actual Lodge. During his visit into this supernatural center he seems to move deeper and deeper into the labyrinth of the Lodge, trying to bring an order into the maze of Red Rooms. In his attempt to make rational sense out of the goings-on, he experiences a decrease of his intuitive abilities and his will to let go. It is almost as though Cooper would fall back on the rationality and mind-controlling fixation of the classical detective. Of course, Cooper has violated one of the traditional detective's rules never to get involved with a woman emotionally. As a new detective, Cooper had been able to break the unwritten codes of common detectional patterns. As a conservative hero, he returns to the old scheme at exactly the wrong moment.

When the Man from Another Place appears before Cooper and mutters 'wrong way' (Lavery, 30.12), he is actually referring to Cooper's wrong approach in entering the Lodge. 'Fear and love open the doors to the Lodge', as Major Briggs attests: 'There are two doors and two Lodges. Fear opens the black, love the other' (29.13). The Native American Hawk informs Cooper that confronting the Black Lodge with imperfect courage will 'utterly annihilate your soul' (19.6). Love for Annie, but not for Laura's double, as suggested during the Red Room dream, enables Cooper to enter the Lodges. In this emotional state, Cooper's former strength is likely to turn into fear. The display of fear occurs when Laura starts to scream at Cooper; then the dwarf and the female victim become what a conventional detective would see them as: threatening shadow images, expressing deeply hidden (male) fears:

Laura Palmer appears both as the self-controlled young woman of Cooper's 'Red Room dream' and as a vehicle for BOB, screaming in a theatrical imitation of him that finally terrifies Cooper ... it is this display of fear that causes him to split into 'good' and 'evil' Dales. (Hague, 141)

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