straight down the line

Further Noir Reviews

Now that I have a better concept of noir, the stories that I just recently read show several examples of the style.

The Postman Always Rings Twice: From the beginning, the novel has a quick witted, headstrong protagonist named Frank Chambers. He is a drifter who can’t stay in one place without getting antsy. Those qualities already show that he is the epitome of a noir character, sharing the qualities of the stereotypical 40s detective. Then, there was Cora, our femme fatale. While not entirely the strong hearted, fearless woman, Cora still maintained a hold over Frank’s heart that ultimately led to both their demises. Still holding true to dark noir themes, the duo plan the death of Cora’s husband twice. As twisted as it is, the two were in love, doing whatever it would take to be together. Greed and jealousy drive Frank to do the things he does and, true to noir themes, he does all this for an irrevocably beautiful woman. So, while maintaining the typical crime novel themes, The Postman Always Rings Twice uses the noir style of clever main characters, sexy women and corruption (this time of the heart) to paint a much darker picture of the lengths people would go to get happiness.

The Wild Party: This poem is littered with femme fatales. From sultry vixens to manipulative sirens, The Wild Party is dominated by the women of the story. The entirety of the titular event was a result of Queenie getting revenge against her lover, Burrs, who insulted her. She, herself, is described as mysterious, sneaky and downright conniving. While still maintaining the rugged, masculine characters, they lack the drive to act on their feelings or do anything other than being passively aggressive. This story is mainly driven by the tough, rigid women. Through manipulation, they bend the men to their will, Queenie more than the others. She is able to lie so convincingly that she even forgets sometimes. Typical to noir themes, seduction, jealousy and lust move the plot forward and this is a result of the strong willed vixens who pull the men into the darkest recesses of their minds. Filled with sin, provocation and decadence, The Wild Party is one of the few female driven noir stories. And still typical to the style, the femme fatales lead the men to ruin, figuratively and literally.

The Killers: Ernest Hemingway is not often seen as a noir writer. However, his story The Killers holds some darker qualities. Still accompanied by strong willed, fearless males, the story details the events of a diner in a small town. Two hitmen come in waiting for their target, holding the three workers hostage. Similarly to other noir pieces, this story uses evil, criminals as the villains. While not a typical noir story, The Killers maintains the levelheaded protagonists. However, while Ole Anderson is not a main character, he is the stereotypical noir male, rough, prickly, and dismissive. The story also uses dark themes like Ole Anderson’s resignation to his fate and the criminals’ motives for killing him. Anderson doesn’t try to fight it, knowing that it would happen eventually in his life. These dark elements are typical to a noir story and Hemingway makes sure to end it casually, showing that no matter what happens life goes on.

Thus, my continued study of noir shows that dark themes are prevalent throughout these kinds of stories. They’re things people find uncomfortable, unsettling but know happen somewhere in the world, maybe even next door. It’s what some people push down to the darkest depths of their soul and what others embrace wholeheartedly. It’s something that cannot hide forever and noir brings that to surface, brings forth the other side of reality.

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