In Tom Stoppard’s skilfully delineated play, The Real Inspector Hound, he seeks to merely parody the traditional crime fiction genre. The play does not criticise or parody at the expense of the genre but it is simply poking affectionate fun at it. Stoppard identifies the classic techniques used in crime fiction and exaggerates it to such an extent that it causes the audience to laugh at the ludicrousness of the genre. He parodies the typical layout and the archetypal characters used in traditional crime fiction stories. Stoppard adds to the amusement of the play through the use of parallel plots that absurdly and unpredictably merge, creating a classic yet twisted denouement. The Real Inspector Hound is a play that cleverly fulfils all the expectations of a parody and causes the audience to view the jocularity of traditional crime fiction.
Stoppard imitates the classic layout of traditional crime fiction plays by exposing the typical beginning with a mysterious dead body in a quintessential isolated setting. Birdboot says “no one will leave the house…It’s a whodunnit man!-Look at it!” (pg. 11) suggesting that the layout of a crime fiction story is so archetypical that it is obvious even before the beginning of the play. Although the play is set in a theatre, the play within the play is set in Muldoon Manor, more specifically, “the drawing room of Lady Muldoon’s country residence one morning in early spring.” (pg.15). It is also revealed that this manor is moreover surrounded by “desolate marshes” (pg. 13), “deadly swamps and the fog” and near a “deserted cottage on the cliffs” (pg. 29). This exaggeration of the classic seclusion of characters is an unswerving parody of the required setting in crime fiction stories similar to Aga…
…play within the play is Inspector Hound who is supposed to take on the Holmesian detective role. This is where Stoppard differs from the typicality of the characters as Hound seems to be clueless rather than knowledgeable. This is displayed when he exclaims “I’ll phone the police!” (pg. 34) and then realises that he is the police. Stoppard parodies and exaggerates our much loved stock characters in a way that makes them seem even more loveable.
Finally, Stoppard parodies the classic denouement of traditional crime fiction with a concluding plot twist. Throughout the beginning of the crime fiction play, Birdboot and Moon are constantly being side-tracked by their soliloquies about their personal concerns. Birdboot continually expresses his affection for his new found “love” Cynthia and Moon continually expresses his envy for Higgs’ superior professional position.