RARA-AVIS: Re: Random Notes On Redemption

From: prosperena (prosperena@yahoo.com)
Date: 04 Sep 2009

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    I think a book can have that "quality of redemption" even if none of the characters, and especially the main protagonist, experiences redemption. I don't think even the very romantic Chandler would insist on such a literal reading of redemption => art. (Good point from Kerry that RC's fiction is hard-boiled but not noir.)

    The reader might be the one "redeemed." I just finished a series of six novels (described, not very accurately, as "thrillers" by the publisher) featuring a character who in the last book is probably dying. The last page of the final book contains this passage:

    "There was no place for him in [her world], though she did not know it--and there was no place in it that he wanted. He had lived so long without--without wife, without family, without feeling--without the value scheme, the moral scheme that life builds on reciprocal emotion. These were things he did not know and did not wish to know and would never know."

    Pretty grim fate for a character I'd grown rather fond of, in spite of all his flaws, over the six novels. But I think there can be a kind of catharsis for the reader in such books as this that I'm not very good at articulating. I would argue that even if noir is, by definition, unredeemed, the reader can experience some kind of personal redemption (Old English Dictionary definition 3 a: "The action of freeing, delivering, or restoring in some way. without or past redemption: without or beyond the possibility of deliverance, recovery, or restoration.") A kind of deliverance for the reader?

    Kari E. Johnson

    > Just a question that popped into my head about redemption:
    > Do characters have to be redeemed for a book to have a "quality of redemption"? Is it enough to have a book deal with characters who struggle with or strive for redemption? Even if a character openly rejects redemption or even its possibility, can't the book engage the idea? I guess what I'm asking is, can't a book in which characters fail to attain it still engage issues of redemption? Can't a book that shows a character making misstep after misstep away from "the light" act as a cautionary tale? Or can't there be a sense of "there but for the grace of God go I"? I haven't really thought this through, just tossing out some random thoughts, but it just occurs to me that redemption could be a structuring absence in noir.
    > Mark

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