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The Detective as Veteran: The trauma of war in the work of Raymond Chandler. / Sarah Louise Trott
Swansea University Author: Sarah Louise Trott
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Raymond Chandler created his detective Philip Marlowe not as the idealisation of heroic individualism as is commonly perceived, but instead as an authentic individual subjected to very real psychological frailties resulting from his traumatic experiences during World War One. Marlowe's characte...
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Raymond Chandler created his detective Philip Marlowe not as the idealisation of heroic individualism as is commonly perceived, but instead as an authentic individual subjected to very real psychological frailties resulting from his traumatic experiences during World War One. Marlowe's characterisation goes beyond the traditional chivalric readings and should instead be interpreted as an authentic representation of a traumatised veteran in American society. Substituting the horror of the trenches for the corruption of the city. Chandler's disillusioned protagonist and his representation of an uncaring American society resonate strongly with the dislocation of the Lost Generation. Consequently, it is profitable to consider Chandler not simply as a generic writer but as a genuine literary figure. This thesis re-examines important primary documents highlighting extensive discrepancies in existing biographical narratives of Chandler's war experience, and unveils an account that is significantly different from that of his biographers, revealing the trauma that troubled Chandler throughout his life. The application of psychological behavioural interpretation to interrogate Chandler's novels demonstrates the variety of post-traumatic symptoms that tormented both Chandler and his protagonist. A close reading of his personal papers reveals the psychological symptoms of PTSD that were subconsciously encoded into Marlowe's characterisation. Marlowe can only be understood a character shaped by Chandler's own experiences. This conflation of the hard-boiled style and war experience has influenced many contemporary crime writers, particularly in the traumatic aftermath of the Vietnam War. The sum of this work offers a new understanding of Chandler's traumatic war experience, how that experience established the traditional archetype of detective fiction, and how this reading of his work allows Chandler to transcend generic limitations to be recognised as a key twentieth century literary figure.
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