Three Witnesses (Nero Wolfe, #26) Three Witnesses discussion


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Understanding Wolfe and Archie

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Sara I noticed several "first time" readers were tepid in the reactions. They found the plots obvious, the character of Wolfe not deeply drawn. Perhaps because I am a "long time" fan, I had to start a discussion...

You have to read quite a few of these stories to understand that their best feature is the relationship between Wolfe and Archie. Their interactions and their household are the reason fans continue to re-read them.

Stout's genius lies in creating not Wolfe, but in creating Archie. And perhaps more importantly in creating the relationship between Archie and Wolfe. That is unique and wonderful. Stout defined Archie so well through what he does compared to what he says, through how he handles Wolfe, and why he stays with Wolfe, and so on.

The grab of these stories are not the plots. I have read most of these stories 5 or more times. I don't care who did it. No one does. It's just fun to visit the brownstone.


Joanne I used to love these books. BUT, Archie is a male chauvinist pig, and Nero Wolfe is a misogynist. So my ardor had cooled considerably.


Sara Of course they are. That's part of their character. But it's not all of it.

And in Archie's case, it's a reflection of the era. Which, in and of itself, is rather interesting. A sort of peek at the male/female roles in 20th century America.

In Wolfe's case, the misogyny is deliberately drawn as a flaw. An entertaining and interesting flaw. In particular because Stout does such a good job of showing how irrational it is.


Joanne There is that. I do like them. But they seem, now, so dated. It's like the old Dick Van Dyke show. I can't watch it because I have a hard time putting in the context of when it was made.


Sara Yeah. I get that with old shows too. Also, the rhythm of new shows is so different.

I don't know why I don't do that with Stout. I get it with certain books though. I can't think of one off the top of my head, but I have put books down because they feel like they belong to a different world that I can't relate to anymore.


Adam Graham I actually think there are some remarkably well-crafted women who appear in the Stout stories. There are some ditzes too, but really Stout created great female characters who were very strong, brave, and surprising, even if they are a little dated.

I guess I find the Wolfe-Archie relationship dynamic as a man to be interesting because it definitely was born of a time when men were a whole lot less expressive. There was so much in that relationship and so many things that I think both understand without ever saying. It really does make it interesting to read.


Sara He does create some stronger female characters. What I find interesting is that Archie isn't always attracted to the pathetic needy woman, which is so typical of many less subtle novelist. His taste cover a wide range, many of them strong women, some of them stupid and ditzy.
I suspect dancing and ankles are the primary attraction factors, but I could be wrong...


message 8: by Joanne (last edited Jul 08, 2013 06:40AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Joanne I noticed lately, mostly because what is on TV is all reruns, that there are not only reruns of comedies, but police dramas galore. Tried, cannot watch them. The law that they practiced and law as it is now are so different. In old series of all kinds the phones are all land line phones, not even cordless. The morals, attitudes and thinking so dated. I can handle that in period pieces, but not very well in regular shows, reruns or not. I'm so used to modern technology, modern medical practices, modern ways of life, modern everything, I have gotten so I have a difficult time with all that. I find myself thinking, WOW, how archaic is that? Even Magnum seems old fashioned, and I really loved that show. But, on the other hand shows like MASH don't seem like that. Because it is about a war, a real war that really happened, and everything fits.


Adam Graham Reality television dominates, and reruns are cheaper than new dramatic television and with so many channels, it's hard to find new stuff to fill them with.

Regardless, it seems like you're saying that what you're saying is that you can't get the characters because they're fictional characters and were written in the 1930s-70s. Too each their own. I kind of like this idea from Banacek:

"It's not a question of old or new, but good or bad. There are ten years worth of new things and thousands of years worth of old things. It stands to reason that there's more good old stuff than good new stuff."-George Peppard as Banacek


Joanne That isn't what I am saying at all Adam. I have a problem with some shows and their dated thinking or technology. I look at them, listen to them, and have a tendency to think, today we would smack that guy for that behavior. Or today no woman with a brain would put up with that. Or today we know so much more.


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