Week One Questions


Hi guys!


(Though I’ve previously played and completed L.A. Noire, I’m going to try and write this entry as a new player about a third of the way through the game.)


Dr. Harlan Fontaine presents an interesting character for the player: his clear sense of authority and gentle demeanour set him up to be a redeemer in the corrupt and immoral city, but through his brief encounters with Courtney Sheldon in the newspaper sub-plot the player gets the sense of a sinister undercurrent in his behaviour. His casual administration of drugs, both legal and illegal, brings his ethics under scrutiny.


Cole Phelps, as the protagonist and for the most part the narrator of the game presents himself as a young, straight-laced veteran of WWII committed to cleaning up Los Angeles. Though he appears to the player to be an amiable character, the flashbacks to his military service reveal arrogance and even hostility in his dealings with comrade Jack Kelso.


Fontaine’s almost reckless application of drugs reminds me of a few doctor characters from literature and film, namely Dr. Yealland from Pat Barker’s Regeneration – though Fontaine’s character may be more amiable than Yealland’s parallels can be seen between his unethical treatment for traumatised Vietnam veterans and Yealland’s blatant abuse of shock-therapy on his shell-shocked WWI soldiers. Fontaine’s gentle demeanour with a sinister undercurrent also reminds me of Stevie Smith’s poem The Murderer – in the brief poem the grieving lover quickly turns into the suspect of murder with a turn of phrase, similar to Fontaine.


Phelps, as has already been mentioned several times, is evidently a ‘flawed’ good guy, a Byronic hero of sorts. I personally found it difficult to draw strong parallels with Phelps and other literary or film characters, as there are clearly elements of the classic ‘film noir’ protagonist in his steady disposition and commitment to justice, beyond that which is expected of his position but lacks the dark cynicism and vices of alcohol and cigarettes. There could be certain links with Phelps and the iconic Sam Spade character from The Maltese Falcon but Phelps’ more genial character sets him apart from the moody film noir stereotype.


L.A. Noire is arguably best categorised as detective fiction following Todorov’s distinction that there are two stories in the narrative (1977): the story of the crime and the story of the investigation. Both are present in the game, with each crime that Phelps investigates being introduced with a film clip showing the crime being committed, but the main body of the game and actual game play focussing on the actual investigation: this classifies L.A. Noire as a “whodunit” detective story with the player actively seeking out the perpetrator through the character of Phelps. In this way it is possible to link L.A. Noire to the detective fiction of authors such as Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers. It may also be possible to link L.A. Noire to Jameson’s theory of the “political unconscious” (1981) with the game providing symbolic resolution to real problems – the game is set in a time when America had totally triumphed against a very tangible enemy (the Japanese and the Axis) and the aftermath (the psychological fallout) was in the process of being resolved, though through somewhat illicit means in some cases. L.A. Noire has been released in a time when the USA is in a constant war with an intangible enemy and thus cannot deal with the after effects because there has as yet been no post-war period.



  1. DanOrton / Mar 18th, 2012 21:44 Quote

    I agree with your analysis of LA Noire and I had, myself, somehow managed to massively glance over the Agatha Cristie novels. I think that it’s a very good connection to make — I too would link the game to those novels. The “whodunit” genre that you alluded to also reminds me a lot of the CSI series (the hundreds of episodes made) that also follow a similar pattern in the way the story pans out; ie. you witness the crime and then gradually build evidence through investigation to ultimately catch the perpetrator at the climax of each individual story.

    I think another good connection to make (as far as novels are concerned) is to the Sherlock Holmes novels — in the sense that the detectives follow the method of gathering evidence and making an educated action based on what is known. I’m speaking with words that are somewhat familiar to myself but I’m not entirely sure where I’ve heard it, but I think that the method of police investigation that is used in this game (and all of the allusions we have made) are in fact known as “Holmesian Deduction”!


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