The Garden of Forking Paths

by Jorge Luis Borges

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What detective elements are found in Borges’s story “The Garden of Forking Paths.”

There are a number of elements of the detective story on Borges’s “The Garden of Forking Paths,” such as carefully planted clues that mislead the reader, leading him or her down the wrong path. The cut-off phone call and the chase at the railroad station generate the kind of tension and excitement we’d expect in a work of detective fiction.

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Though not strictly speaking a work of detective fiction, Borges’s “The Garden of Forking Paths” contains a number of elements borrowed from the genre. Here, as elsewhere in his work, Borges wants to explore philosophical and literary ideas, and he clearly believes that in this particular case, using the structure of a detective story is the best way for him to do just that.

The elements of detective fiction present in the story constitute the structure on which Borges hangs his speculations about the nature of time and multiple universes. In this way, a popular genre acts as a kind of gentle induction course in complex ideas that might not otherwise resonate with the average reader. Along the way, there are a number of scenes straight out of a detective story, such as the chase at the railroad station and the cut-off telephone call. As well as introducing us to complex ideas, Borges also wants to entertain us.

As the story is principally concerned with exploring the way that time branches out into an infinite number of futures, it is inevitable that clue-gathering and problem-solving, both crucial elements of detective fiction, should play a major part in the plot’s development. In the time-honored convention of the detective story, Borges carefully plants a number of clues at the start of the story that lead us down the wrong path. Not wishing to give the game away too quickly, he wants us to explore the various paths to which his exploration of infinite paths and futures leads us.

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