The Black Mountain Literary Techniques

Rex Stout

Literary Techniques

Like all the Nero Wolfe stories, The Black Mountain is narrated in the first person by Archie Goodwin, always close to the heart of the action but forever a step or two behind Nero Wolfe in unraveling the mystery. The language barrier provides a new twist here: Archie must often wait minutes or hours to be brought up to date on the words, which sharpens his already acute attention to other nuances. Although Wolfe reports in full when time allows, Archie's usual breezy confidence as a narrator is undermined by his inability to know directly what is being said.

The Black Mountain differs from other Nero Wolfe books not only in the setting, but also in its wealth of action. Archie shoots more villains in one scene than in all his other recorded exploits combined. In keeping with Stout's themes, however, Archie takes no pleasure in his gun slinging: he kills the three torturers because he must, without glamorizing his feat or gloating over it afterwards. Six people die in all, a bloodbath for Stout, but each death stands as a sobering moment in the narrative — a far cry from the casual slaughter and callous wisecracks of so many books and films in the genre.

Stout allows the plot to carry him outside his usual framework, just as Nero Wolfe reluctantly leaves New York to chase the murderer. Stout, Wolfe, and Archie all want to go home, and thus the novel fulfills a classic AB- A structure, ending with order restored and characters...

(The entire section is 283 words.)