Vicarious power : masculinity, access and the hard-boiled detective Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/rj4307909

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  • Dashiell Hammett's fiction and detective pulps generally, offered the reader a chance to participate in vicarious power, by giving them a sense of the profession of detection, both in and out of the stories. It was the realism of the detective figure that allowed the audience to relate to him. What the detective offers the reader is an intensely powerful performance of masculinity that is at once ordinary in physicality and intelligence and extraordinary in the power it affords him. This power comes from his professional abilities, which allow him to transcend physical and class limitations. The detective story allows the reader to identify with the detective, and the detective pulps both in the stories and in their other sections offer the reader lessons in the profession of detection. Through this identification and education there is a kind of transference of the detective's power to the reader. The detective story offers the reader a chance to be powerful in a corrupt world, but since the detective is never able to fully rid the world of corruption, the story also offers the reader an opportunity to escape the corrupt world by putting the story down (essentially locating the corruption of the world within the pulp itself). In this escape, the reader inevitably feels happiness and contentment because his real world (though not as exciting or powerful as the detective's) is safe.
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