Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: Noir is not for everybody

From: Michael Robison (
Date: 28 Sep 2005

Dave Zeltserman wrote:

I'd like to refine Miker's definition in that the protagonist is screwed of his own making. The odds may be stacked against him, but he still makes the poor moral choice, fails in his battle against his true nature, etc.

************** I agree. A bad choice dooms the protagonist. This would seem to void out my description of noir as pessimistic determinism, wouldn't it? If one declares determinism to be the world of the noir character, then there's no free will he can exert to make the choice that seals his fate.

I think of pessimistic determinism as not absolute but relative. In five card draw there's no reason that you can't be dealt a royal flush right off the bat. But the chances aren't very good. It is in this way that the environment stacks the deck against the noir protagonist.

I can visualize the environment and its deterministic influence as a road, and the character steers by his decisions. The narrower the road, the more dire the consequences of a bad decision. In the wrong environment, like Maggie in Crane's novel, it's virtually impossible not to make a catastrophically wrong decision. It's like going full-throttle on an old Harley down a razor's edge.

In most noir novels, the road is narrow.


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