What is it about?

Extant criticism of crime and mystery fiction has indicated how protagonists have freedom of choice in dealing with difficult situations in different forms of risky or challenging settings. In this article, previous criticism is evaluated in terms of its reflection of an essential element of the human condition: the Self’s free will to construct the existential and spatial meanings of its phenomenological existence in relation to the Other. The article further indicates that protagonists tend to disregard their freedom and responsibility for their actions, especially when they make existential choices in traumatic or critical situations. Additionally, the dominance of others and variously suppressive spatial contexts can inhibit the protagonists from acknowledging their free will to act responsibly in order to reach their authentic existence.

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Why is it important?

This article integrates Jean Paul Sartre’s concept of the human condition and the corresponding interpretative framework of spatial concepts from different thinkers, such as Edward Relph, Arnold van Gennep, Victor W. Turner and Mikhail M. Bakhtin, who emphasize the significance of places in the meaning-construction of the Self’s identity and its existence in relation to the Other. Through the integration of these theoretical frameworks, the portrayal of protagonists in contemporary crime and mystery novels is examined in order to illustrate individuals’ senses of freedom and responsibility for their own actions in existential and spatial contexts.


This article reflects certain aspects of the human condition that we sometimes may disregard; in fact, they are significant, especially when we hope to develop worthwhile relationships with others or desire to achieve our sense of selfhood.

Kevalin Kaewruean
Chiang Mai University

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Understanding the Human Condition through the Depiction of Protagonists in Crime and Mystery Novels, Manusya Journal of Humanities, June 2021, Brill, DOI: 10.1163/26659077-02401003.
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