Thoughts on The Big Clock, Janoth and Truth

While I think the Big Clock was an interesting read, how heavily it differed from the other work-related novels in the course we’ve read certainly through me off a bit, at least to start. The novel’s mystery noir form takes a lot of focus off the aspect of work and labor. Obviously we still see work and it’s ability to permeate the lives of the employee, but the results weren’t as drastic or physically debilitating as we’ve seen in Martin Eden, Christ in Concrete or On The Line. Certainly it’s there as we can discern when Janoth refuses to let Stroud take a vacation he has been saving for a while for his honey moon with his wife, something one would expect a boss to be fairly lax with. But the figure of Janoth, I believe is extremely interesting in this novel. Before, the novels have focused fairly heavily on the lives of the employee, but here we have the boss heavily detailed. We see Janoth as an extremely time-obsessed and over-bearing boss, but still we don’t see the physical effects of labor that we’ve seen in other works. But through Janoth, we do get a glimpse of the top and a character profile we haven’t really gotten a chance to encounter as of yet. We see a man with wealth and power who is completely consumed by it, but in many ways he is still unbelievably weak. No doubt he is a man of power and influence, but he is fat, short, bald and unnatractive, and he is still very much aware and delicate to these things. He is also probably a closet homosexual, as we see in one of the most interesting scenes in the novel. When Janoth and his mistress Pauline argue, he reminds her of all her lesbian trysts and she counters with the fact that he is probably gay for his right hand man, Steve and that women are only sleeping with his terrible exterior because of his power. These things are all fairly obviously true, but they send Janoth into an uncontrollable rage and a murder scene unfolds that I think is extremely well written. I found that scene compelling simply because of how out of body Fearing was able to make it, and to me that sort of highlighted the true Janoth. He isn’t necessarily the powerful man who bullies his workers into long hours to make his deadlines, this is undoubtedly a façade for him to hide behind. The only power he can express is that over his workers, if stripped of his title no one would even look at him twice. This is why he regrets Pauline’s murder when he confesses it to Steve, he knows he killed her simply because she told the truth. I think truth being the cause of the murder that drives the novel is extremely fitting. The theme of what is truth and who controls it radiates throughout the novel and ironically, it seems that Janoth is the one who gets to create the truth, but when he is actually faced with it it is too much for him to handle. He can get the whole nation to believe anything if he publishes it, but he can’t get his mistress to believe that he is something that he is not. She sees him as the physically and mentally weak man he is and in the face of that he must alter or stop the truth, and that is why I believe Fearing ultimately has him kill Pauline and attempt to frame Stroud. Some truth can not be controlled.

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One thought on “Thoughts on The Big Clock, Janoth and Truth

  1. Yes, Janoth doesn’t correspond to our expectation of the “evil genius” at the center of a conspiracy. Nor does Steve, exactly. What’s so creepy about the novel is that there’s no wizard behind the curtain; instead, there’s something more Foucaultian: a “microphysics of power” that is everywhere yet impalpable.

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