Subversion and Misplaced Desire: the Disintegration of the Normal and the Destruction of the Ordinary in Ruth Rendell’s Psychological Thrillers.

Heholt, Ruth (2014) Subversion and Misplaced Desire: the Disintegration of the Normal and the Destruction of the Ordinary in Ruth Rendell’s Psychological Thrillers. In: Captivating Criminality: Crime Writing, Darkness and Desire, April 2014, Bath Spa University.

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Abstract / Summary

This paper explores two of Ruth Rendell’s psychological thrillers, Adam and Eve and Pinch Me (2001) and Thirteen Steps Down (2004). Within these novels ghosts and desires haunt the dark spaces of the psyche as terrible crimes are committed. Through the gloom, masculinity and fantasies of the family are called into question; uncovering deep inadequacies, lies, masquerades and appalling misconceptions. This paper examines Rendell’s representation of hetero-normative masculinity and concepts of ‘normality’. The desire for a banal, popular and idealized form of masculinity for Mix in Thirteen Steps Down, and the empty promises of a banal type of domestic, family bliss from Jock in Adam and Eve and Pinch Me, lead to madness and absolute violence. In both novels, misconceptions about gender roles and ideas of the trite and the conventional are the horror and produce terror, and murder. Haunted by a facade of idealized masculinity and family life, both the men and the women in these novels are deluded by its mirage. In these novels even cleanliness and orderliness in the home, rather than signifying an ideal, signal obsession and madness. It is the unconventional, the abnormal and even the filthy that signifies sanity, kindness and peace, but this is little in evidence here. In Rendell’s novels it is the ideas and dreams of the ordinary, the expected, the normal and the conventional that are seen as having no place, as being both redundant and quite often violently destructive. Throughout her psychological thrillers Rendell turns the truly culturally permitted, that which supposedly makes up the very fabric of acceptable, normal society and behaviour into the liminal, the taboo and the horrifying. This paper looks at the delights and pleasures offered to the reader by these psychological thrillers. It examines the truly subversive nature of Rendell’s presentation of the dreadful through and within the normal. Masculinity, the family and even the acceptability of cleanliness are all turned upside down as madness and horror ooze out of the very substance of narrow and unquestioned conceptions of conventional normality.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Subjects: Writing & Journalism > Literature
Courses by Department: The School of Writing & Journalism > Journalism
Depositing User: Ruth Heholt
Date Deposited: 22 Jan 2015 13:45
Last Modified: 22 Jan 2015 13:45
URI: http://repository.falmouth.ac.uk/id/eprint/1537

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