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Analysis Of The Literary Genre Of Mystery Fiction

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“Crime fiction satisfies in us a secret yearning for justice, the unappeasable appetite for a fair world, which begins in childhood and never leaves us. It satisfies our need for conclusions, both moral and narrative” (Nick Eliot). A mystery story is a genre of fiction, that sets up a puzzle or a problem, and challenges the reader’s mind to think, and to create a feeling of resolution for the audience. This genre creates a set of questions that make the story appealing and interesting to the audience. The stories of the most popular authors of this genre, such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Edgar Allen Poe and Agatha Christie, center around the crime of murder, and the quest to bring justice by unmasking the truth.

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The story “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” by Edgar Allen Poe, is generally considered to be the first detective story and it first appears in Graham’s Lady’s and Gentleman’s Magazine in 1841. Edgar Allen Poe is often named as the “Father of the Detective Story” and talesofmurder.com, says that the general mystery story form “… as we know it today did not emerge until the mid-nineteenth century when Edgar Allen Poe introduced mystery fiction’s first fictional detective, Auguste C. Dupin, in his 1841 story, ‘The Murders in the Rue Morgue’”. The story describes the exceptional “analytical power” used by Monsieur C. Auguste Dupin to solve a series of murders in Paris and like the most Sherlock Holmes stories, the story is narrated by the detective’s roommate. After Poe’s novel was published , mystery stories began to grow into novels and english novelist Wilkie Collins published a detective novel, The Moonstone, in 1868. In the 1930s, often remembered as the golden age of detective stories, the mystery detective novel became the centrepiece of writers like Dashiell Hammet, Raymond Chandler, and Mickey Spillane.

The essential elements of the mystery literary genre- the characters, the setting, the plot, the problem and the solution – keep the story running fluently and allow the clues to the solution of the mystery to be revealed in a logical way that the reader can follow. Authors often use everyday settings which can help a reader to visualize the story better. The plot of a mystery novel or a short story, focuses on a crime that needs solving, the protagonist is the detective and the rest of the characters are usually the suspects. The storyline usually begins with an insightful action such as a murder, and uses suspense to draw the reader into the story. As the protagonist, the detective works to solve the mystery and often finds him/herself in danger. Each suspect and their motives are examined as a part of the plot line. Dramatic tension is heightened with foreshadowing, a literary device that hints of at the events to come. The solution to the problem is the way the act is resolved, for example, finding the murderer or the guilty. Authors must be sure to include all the clues necessary for finding the solution in the story to make it believable. One of the most common themes in mystery novels is deception which can be physical or social, and it’s all about keeping secrets from others. Any mystery novel has some sort of deception. Nowadays, one of the important goals of mystery novels, as Andrew Taylor, known British author in the mystery genre puts it is that “…the best crime novels do both more and less than this: they do not suggest a remedy for crime or reassure us that all in the end we will be well; but they can help us to understand our violent society, and they also allow us to hope that evil will not go unpunished”. Mystery and crime novels could help us get in contact with the dangers of our society and come to the realization of securing ourselves more.

Although the earliest known fictional works on mystery date to the early 1800s, the genre became popular from the 1850s onwards. The emerging dominance of the genre is thanks to several factors of the era, such as the prominence of social justice issues, the rise of mass media publishing, and the class conflicts and associated working class life. Mystery fiction has grown to become popular because the story moves with speed. Mystery stories offer suspense, a sense of satisfaction and they also offer escape from the fears and worries and the stress and strain of everyday life. This satisfies the most primitive element responsible for the development of story-telling, the element of curiosity, the desire to know why and how. Mystery novels do not need emotional involvement; they do not involve one’s political opinions or exhaust one by its philosophical matters which may lead the reader towards self-analysis and exploration. They, at best, require a sense of participation and which is easy to give, hence the popularity of this genre. 

09 March 2021

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