Re: RARA-AVIS: On Faulkner's Knight's Gambit

From: Mark Sullivan (
Date: 18 Jul 2003

MrT wrote

"Why does the Horse figure so rarely in hardboiled fiction? It surely
(with the Bull) is a central metaphor of Vigor and Nobility."

Possibly because of the horse's ties to westerns? While hardboiled certainly has very deep roots in the western (as Cawelti so convincing shows), it usually, particularly in the early days (with some exceptions like the town-taming, Red Harvest plot), employed an urban setting. The western often focused on the encroachment of the "civilization" of the modern world upon the frontier, thereby making the hero's frontier skills obsolete and leading him to ride towards the horizon, just ahead of schoolmarms, politicians and cars. At least in movies, the horseless carriage (or bicycles, in the case of Butch Cassidy) often represents
"the future."

In hardboiled, the frontier is no more, but the loner hero still finds its vestiges, often hidden behind, even shored up by the trappings of civilization. Perhaps the mention of a horse would feel anachronistic in the modern world and call a little too much attention to the genre's lingering debt. Of course, that hasn't stopped many hardboiled writers from eulogizing horse-power, in the form of that horseless carriage.


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This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 18 Jul 2003 EDT