straight down the line

Taking a look at noir literature…

This week in #ds106, there were a few excellent noir examples for us to read.  I chose the following stories:

“The Postman Always Rings Twice”

“The Killers”

“The Wild Party”


The Postman Always Rings Twice: This fast-paced, sultry novel has the characters and plot that really capture the essence of noir.  Typical of noir, the story jumps in head first, with no character introductions.  Frank Chambers is a drifter that is in and out of jail cells in every town he travels to.  Mysterious to say the least.  I would argue that he is the epitome of a character in noir.  He winds up in a little diner in California where he meets Cora, along with her current husband, Nick.  Frank begins working at the diner after Nick takes a liking to him.  Cora’s alluring lips and tempting beauty begin to entice Frank, and they soon begin a lustful love affair that leads to the plot to kill Nick.  The first time was a failure, and caused Frank to flee.  But when Frank returned, the two picked right back up where they left off, doing whatever it took to be together.  They were successful in their second attempt to kill Cora’s husband Nick.  As twisted and ruthless as this story is, it is the perfect example of how noir.  Cain uses crime, lust and corruption to maintain a compelling plot that keeps the reader guessing.


The Killers:  Ernest Hemingway takes a crack at noir with “The Killers”.  On a dark, cold winter night in a small Illinois diner (subthought: I wonder if small town diners are typical of noir??),  two over-dressed men in black walk in.  The men in black are arrogant, mysterious men, who order the “country boy” employees
(George and Nick) to the kitchen after what they thought to be an unpleasant dining experience.  They tie up the employees, and claim that they were hired to kill an aging boxer who they refer to as Ole Andreson.  The supposed killers leave after untying the two men, and George directs Nick to run to Ole Andreson’s place to warn him.  Shockingly, Andreson doesn’t even flinch at the news.  Typical of a noir character; Andreson is ostentatious and rugged.  His passive attitude toward his own death causes a panic inside of Nick, and he flees town.  The somber themes in this story suggest noir, although it is not your average noir and Hemingway is not your typical noir author.  I do however believe that Hemingway saw success from going against his own grain with this one.  He wanted to prove through Ole Andreson’s character that no matter what, life goes on; and how any one man reacts to evil in their life is more important than the evil itself.

*This video is just a little something interesting I found on the artist Art Spiegelman and his adaptation of Joseph Moncure March’s “The Wild Party”.

The Wild Party:  Femme Fatales are distinctively present throughout “The Wild Party”.  This epic, jazz age poem uses seductive women and devious sirens to bend the men in the story to their will.  The men in the story still come across as rugged and mysterious, but lack the ambition of your typical MAIN man character of a noir piece.  The women in this story use their devilish good looks and conniving ways to seduce the men and get them to do whatever they want.  Sin, frustration and mischievous vixens empower the female role in noir literature with this piece.


Overall, I really enjoyed this weeks reading assignments.  Noir is seeming to take root in my brain and I am trying to find ways to relate parts of my life and looking up other examples of noir anywhere that I can.  Funny how that works.  Noir is one of the things that some people read/watch and are disgusted or just can’t handle the intensity of it. It is often defined by tortuous plots, femme fatale and mysterious characters.  The mischievous, cunning, lustful, abrupt characters in the stories are exactly what I enjoy.  One theme I really see standing out is the love story that always seems to be unfolding in the middle of a more exuberating plot.  It makes the story fun, and keeps the reader on edge.  

Keywords:  lust, mysterious, Noir, plot, dark, seductive , kill


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