Themes / Characters

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According to Maigret there is no gratuitous evil. Any crime becomes understandable once the facts become known. Maigret's inquiries usually reinforce his belief that a murderer is an unfortunate human being, for almost anyone is capable of murdering if given enough motivation. The motive is often humiliation, treated in a minor key in the "Maigrets." Maigret is interested in learning about the victims of crime, for this knowledge will lead him to understand the criminals better. Often the victim is more evil than the criminal, and Maigret then hopes that the latter is acquitted.

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Thus, there are few professional criminals. Completely free of hatred or ill will as a rule, Maigret is also free of pity as he proceeds with his strictly professional objectivity to disclose the ordinary human behind the criminal. Preoccupied with one another over a prolonged period of time, the hunter and the hunted sometimes develop a certain closeness that resembles a family relationship.

As a consequence, Maigret refuses to judge most criminals, thus reflecting Simenon's concern with the weaknesses of the judicial system found in many of his novels, Maigret notably recognizes the impossibility of human beings understanding one another; yet there is the necessity for judges and jurors to have clear-cut cases. It is frightening to realize how delicate is the thread on which their decisions hang.

Maigret is less of a hero than is the traditional protagonist of a detective novel because of his simplicity and bourgeois traits. Despite his great cleverness and harmony with his environment, the detective is basically a comfortable father figure. The wealth of detail given by Simenon precludes surrounding Maigret with an aura of mystery.

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