In the genre of detective fiction, the story typically ends in a rhetorical situation where the detective names the criminal and provides logical proof to support his or her assignation of guilt.
The genre of detective fiction, the story typically ends in a rhetorical situation
In the genre of detective fiction, the story typically ends in a rhetorical situation where the detective names the criminal and provides logical proof to support his or her assignation of guilt. In other words, the detective appeals to logos to support his or her position. Classical detective fiction, the detectives tend to be fairly infallible in their reasoning. Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, for example, seems almost superhuman in his capacity for deploying the forms of inductive and deductive logic to solve every enigma he encounters. Most fictional detectives are to a certain extent modeled on Sherlock Holmes.
However, there are subtle differences in the way in which each of these descendants from Holmes appeals to reason. Each of them has their own distinct style, a signature pattern or tendency in their thinking, and this makes their stories more interesting to fans of the genre. It’s not so much the fact that each of the detectives in classical detective fiction is brilliant when it comes to appealing to logic. We pretty much take that for granted. What’s interesting is the strange way in which they are uniquely brilliant. When you look at these detectives, you typically look for some of the strange quirks in their character, some idiosyncratic habits of thinking that guide them in their investigations as they appeal to logic to solve their respective cases. It’s their quirky weirdness as much as their logical brilliance that makes these detectives so popular.
Let me give you an example. Let’s consider the character of Dr. House (from the television series, House).
While Dr. House in not technically a detective, the way he approaches the task of diagnosing his patients is fairly comparable to the way in which Holmes and Dupin track down their culprits. In this way, diagnostic medicine is analogous to detective work. And House is every bit as brilliant in his profession as Holmes is in his. And yet, it’s not the fact that Dr. House is a brilliant doctor that we find so intriguing about his character. Rather, it’s the way in which his odd personality helps to shape his appeals to logic as he makes his diagnoses.
What are these odd personality quirks? Well, if you’re unfamiliar with this show, here are a few of them:
1. House is profoundly cynical regarding the character of his fellow human beings. He always assumes that given the chance, people will lie, cheat, steal, and otherwise harm their fellow human beings.
2. House is a drug addict, and this makes him always keenly aware of the compulsive behavior of others (specifically, his patients) and of their need to keep secrets.
3. House always assumes that ordinary doctors are mistaken whenever they make a diagnosis. He likes to keep ordinary doctors around him so he can listen to the most likely diagnoses, and then reject them. House believes that the extraordinary and outrageous diagnoses are the preferable ones.
4. House is more interested in solving problems in medical diagnosis than he is in curing his patients. He only will generally only take cases where the diagnosis is so difficult that even he is stumped by the symptoms.
In episode after episode, it’s interesting to watch the way in which these odd quirks in Dr. House’s character effectively cause him to reason his way towards the correct diagnosis.
What I’m asking you to do in this essay is to consider a similar causal relationship between the odd idiosyncrasies of character in the fictional detectives we meet in G.K. Chesterton’s short story, “The Blue Cross.” Aristide Valentin, the Chief of the Paris Police, and Father Brown, the bumbling country priest from Essex, are both fairly brilliant and fairly eccentric. I want you to contrast the unusual methods of reasoning that each of them deploys and I want you to look specifically at the ways in which those unusual methods of reasoning derive from odd traits in the respective personality of each man.
Assignment Length: 1,500 words.