RARA-AVIS: Win or lose

From: Michael Robison ( miker_zspider@yahoo.com)
Date: 10 Mar 2005

Kerry J. Schooley wrote:

I'd like to add to the other responses that noir does not represent the tragic view of the universe. Tragedy is the failure to transcend specific human circumstance, usually character flaws, but allows the romantic view that such transcendence is not only possible, but desirable. Noir precludes the possibility of transcendence, and questions the desirability of attempts to do so.

************ Good comments, Kerry. I have a slightly different take on it.

The protagonist is screwed both in tragedy and noir. There might be slightly different reasons why they are screwed, but it doesn't amount to much. The tragic protagonist is screwed because of a character flaw. In American Naturalism, the granddaddy of noir, the protagonist was screwed for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, pessimistic determinism, but the criminal slant that noir emphasizes seems to shift the responsibility for being screwed back towards the protagonist, with the character's doom hinging upon some bad action. Once that bad action occurs, there is very little chance for salvation.

As far as transcendence goes, tragedy and noir both have a point of no return. Step over this line and you're hosed. Don't step over the line and you might be OK. Transcendence, I guess.

I don't agree with your comment that noir questions the desirability of attempting to extract oneself from the abyss (transcendence?). Just the opposite, I think. The struggle is everything. It defines. The fact that the deck is stacked doesn't matter. The point is that you're in the race, win or lose. With all the fumbling, fear, and fuck-ups, there is a grace and beauty in the struggle.


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