B) Discuss the differences and similarities between Chinese and Western detectives by using at least 2 relevant stories or films from our reading list.
Crime fiction is pervasive in many parts of the world. Though it is a genre by itself, however, its characteristics are extremely varied across the time and space that it is situated within; indeed, the one defining quality that allows the diverse spectrum of styles and contents to lump itself under it is the fact that there is the centrality and focus on a crime within these texts (Scaggs, 1). Indeed, when we examine the texts in this course, while common themes such as justice and morality emerges, we note the differences in character tropes, recurring motifs, methods of resolution, and more. This, then, influences the detective figure present in the stories as well.
For the purpose of this essay, I have selected three texts to examine: The Murders in the Rue Morgue, The Study in Scarlet, as well as Lion Club Lane. This is so as the former two are more closely related in terms of stylistic elements and content, while all three texts have a high focus on the detective characters themselves, thus, allowing me to provide a more comprehensive analysis with regards to the similarities and differences between Chinese and Western detectives.
To begin, one of the most prominent similarities, other than the presence of a crime, would be the desire for justice by the detectives. When we examine the gong’an texts, we note how there is always a third-person, omnipresent narrator that peppers the story with various sayings and quotes, as well as the narrator’s own opinions. For example, in Lion Club Lane, the narrator describes how “in this single case, Lord Pao… had resolved the grievous injustice” (Ma & Lau, 484). The inputs by the narrator, therefore, help to act as a framing device for guiding the reader towards the detective (Lord Pao) as the perpetuator of justice in this story. This is especially so as credibility is accredited to the narrator due to his omnipresence (knowing and seeing everything in the story), which therefore makes the idea of the lawful judge even more sincere when perpetuated by him/her.
In the case of the two Western novels, we note the thematic similarity with regards to the desire of justice by the detectives as well. In both cases, this concept is brought out via the narrative element itself, where storytelling plays an important role in depicting this theme. In Poe’s case, Dupin states how “[the sailor] is bound by every principle of honor to confess all [he] know. An innocent man is now imprisoned” (Poe, 172). Similarly, in The Study in Scarlet, Sherlock Holmes catches the real criminal whereas the innocent Charpentier is absolved of his supposed crime (Doyle, 36). Thus, we note how in these Western novels, the detectives serve as the harbinger of justice, as they help to absolve the innocents of their supposed crimes, and apprehend ...