Why Does The Narrator Confess To Murdering The Old Man Master Of The Moor by Ruth Rendell – A Problem With Genre

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Master Of The Moor by Ruth Rendell – A Problem With Genre

As crime fiction goes, The Master of The Moor by Ruth Rendell is perhaps one of the more subtle examples. The action is set in a moorland region, perhaps somewhere like North Yorkshire, although the book’s place names are made up perfectly and the geography is not explained. There have been murders, the worst case where a young woman who has been victimized – perhaps her own words – was not only stabbed but also beaten. The body is found by Stephen, a large, moorland-loving man rushing to write a regular column on the subject for the local newspaper, so it may not be known in the area. The plot will not be ruined if it is revealed that, mainly due to his familiarity with the moor, and his isolation, Stefano becomes the first suspect. There are more and more murders in small areas, which seem to be closely related.

Stephen is apparently in a happy marriage in an unhappy marriage. We learn about his inability to have sex, as if he were advertising, as he questions his superiority. She has a disturbed elderly relative who lives in a nursing home. There is a famous local writer, now dead, famous for his moorland romances, a writer with whom Stephen feels a strong and special kinship.

There is Dadda, meaning Stephen’s father, a giant of a man who runs a furniture repair business. His son is a worker. There is Nick, the man that Stephen’s wife is seeing. And then, inevitably, there are the police involved. There have been murders.

Ruth Rendell’s descriptive text captures the landscape beautifully and describes Stephen’s lifelong love of the land, its history, its flora and fauna, and its diversity. The plot finally works in its style and there is something surprising at the end. So why does such a well-written, interesting and entertaining book end up being so disappointing? The answer, of course, is that the demands of the genre dominate and limit the creativity of the writer. And here are four ways to do this.

First, there is an all-seeing person at the heart of the process – the author. As we have said before, Ruth Rendell’s book is very well written and certainly more successful than almost any other genre. But whoever wrote here is clearly not trustworthy. There are thoughts, facts and aspects about almost all of these characters that the author deliberately hides from the reader, only to be revealed when the plot demands it. This happens in spite of the God-like point of view, the all-seeing point of view that the non-participant narrator adopts and the mental shift that, apparently, we can be inside the mind of each of the characters at will. And yet we don’t know what they think! For example, in The Master Of The Moor, Stephen apparently changes color when angry. We only learn this in some form through storytelling. Do we think this is a new phenomenon? Has he ever been angry? Has no one seen this before, or reported it in this small, tight-knit community? Perhaps it’s a good vehicle for the speaker, launched with little warning to create a sweet moment. Perhaps, then, it is this kind of dishonesty that leads someone like Alan Bennett to admit that writers are often not very good people.

Secondly, there is the role of the characters in relation to the plot. Overall, the reader feels that the only reasons to identify the character’s parts and connect them to the next plot that will be resolved, are details that appear as evidence or purpose. As the process unfolds, the things are revealed one after the other as clues, like sheets of paper spread out in the forest to mark the path to follow. We know that these people exist as mere vehicles, workers whose existence is to serve the illusion. And the journey is like being led by the nose.

Third, and no less important, it is necessary that all belief be suspended, even within the environment that seems to depend on establishing the concept of reality. Genre fiction seems to be, in terms of what readers need, more important than fantasy, horror or even drama. In Master Of The Moor, for example, we have three murderous criminals in a small rural area. Not only are these crimes committed in a short period of time, but they are also public. Right now the people in these small towns seem to be getting on with their lives without these recent events controlling their thoughts, words or actions. Three people have been killed, but local police are still investigating. Three murders, but there is no amount of encouragement from outside the local armed forces, nor any attacks by researchers, presenters, experts or temporary twenty-four-hour studios of international and international news organizations. Life, and death, it seems, just goes on. There have been three murders, and there seem to be no local media reporters or communities on the streets of these small towns reporting on the news. There have been three murders, yet people are not at the forefront of their gossip. No finger pointing. No tearful press conferences, and little fantasy. And people still talk about restoring furniture, moorland grass, old mines and old books before the triple murder. Of course, this kind of money, it seems, is surprisingly absent.

Fourth, and perhaps most important of all, is the idea that everything being offered is abstract. All the victims are young and female, of course, and men with sexual problems do it in a strange way. Most people are influenced by the experiences of others and anyone interested in what they have to say is a skeptic.

Master of The Moor is a good read. It is a very interesting book. But, through its looks, instructions and ideas, it presents a wonderful world of two. The plot and the characters are actually on the same side within the frame, just connecting lines and dots that have already been placed. There is nothing wrong with the book, but, like its characters, it is bound by genre boundaries and cannot go beyond the established framework. The reader experience is limited. Imagination, somehow, seems to be lacking.

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