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Courtney  Connolly

A Study of Annie Proulx’s Characters In Search of Self-Fulfillment
The History of the FBI’s Crime Solving Practices

Annie Proulx’s novels incorporate sad and poignant characters whose pasts were affected by traumatic relationships but who are able to develop into well-rounded individuals. In the novel That Old Ace in the Hole, Bob Dollar is abandoned on his uncle’s doorstep by parents who he never sees or hears from again. Quoyle, from Proulx’s novel The Shipping News, is victimized by his family and by his wife. While most of Proulx’s characters establish new relationships that help them transform their lives, there is one exception. Loyal Blood from Postcards is given the opportunity to form attachments, but his guilty conscience prevents him from making the trusting connections necessary to turn his life around. What separates Loyal from Proulx’s other characters is that people have cared about Bob and Quoyle, but Loyal does not care about himself enough to let anyone into his guilt-ridden existence. Trust issues in Proulx’s novels are further complicated as the characters experience crimes and their consequences as the crimes go uninvestigated by law enforcement agencies.

A 1908 order made by Attorney General Charles J. Bonaparte marked the start of what we know today as the Federal Bureau of Investigation. This order was made in response to President Theodore Roosevelt’s need for an investigative agency to handle “Land thieves” in the west and big business “trusts” in the east. The FBI developed into a government agency that used investigative tools and techniques to assist local, state, national, and foreign law enforcement agencies. Each of these tools and techniques were specific to the individualized units that made up the FBI’s crime lab. However, they could not be used to undermine the constitutional rights of American citizens. This balancing act was manifested with the passage of the Patriot Act of 2001. It tried to provide the necessary security for citizens while at the same time operating within the Constitution. The Patriot Act is an illustration of the FBI’s difficulty in balancing the need for national security while at the same time respecting individual civil liberties.

Major Works Consulted:

Fisher, David. Hard Evidence. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995.
Proulx, Annie. That Old Ace in the Hole. New York: Scribner, 2003.
---. The Shipping News. New York: Scribner, 1993. Ungar, Stanford J. FBI. Boston: Little, Brown, 1976.
Photo Credit: Rood, Karen L. Understanding Annie Proulx. Columbia: U of South Carolina P, 2001.


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