This paper aims to evaluate the artistic value attached to the novel “Red Harvest”. In literature, the artistic value lies in the language used to express the story in the form of diction and syntax, and in the form of the setting or the mood that is created by the writer through the setting and the characters. It is necessary, however, that the language and the mood are in accordance with the genre and the story or message of the novel or other such work of literature, otherwise the aesthetic value might seem misplaced or even absent. This realization is important when considering a novel like the “Red Harvest” by Dashiell Hammett. The pertinent novel is of the detective genre, written at a time when the critics had begun to despair over the prevalent techniques used to write such novels (Malmgren). They had established that the novels written then were not doing justice to the detective genre as they were not set in a realistic world with a realistic plot (Malmgren). Red Harvest, however, changed the minds of the critics, and is termed as one of the best novels written in the English language (Malmgren). Indeed, it laid the foundations for the stereotypical characters, plot, and setting that one encounters in the novels of this genre today (Marling). The highly professional, emotionally detached, self-righteous detective (Malmgren) stems from the character of the Continental Operative in Red Harvest; a world ruled by thugs and gangsters and infected with vice is reminiscent of the world created by Hammett in this novel (Marling). To do justice to such a story, it is imperative that the treatment of the novel should be bare, minimalist, cold, and crude; otherwise, the writer would fail to hit the point across to the readers, and the treatment and story would not be in synch. It has already been established in this paper that the aesthetic sense or the artistic value of a work of literature should be viewed in the context of the story, and not separately and removed from the context. To this end, it can be determined that Red Harvest is highly artistic in its treatment to the subject matter, as it does complete justice to the setting and the mood of the novel, and creates an atmosphere that is at once awe-inspiring and abhorrent in its nature. It is easy to comprehend why the treatment could be abhorrent; it lacks all forms of humanity, morals, and ethics, and is utterly hopeless and despairing (Malmgren). The characters are vile and treacherous, and the plot is highly gruesome and brutal. There is rampant and mad bloodletting (Malmgren), reaching absurdity, and at times it becomes difficult to see how such an environment could be linked to the real world. However, this same trait of the novel is awe-inspiring. The writer has successfully managed to use his language skills to create such an ambience, and to evoke feelings of morbidity, alarm, and suspense in the readers. Without such a treatment, the novel would have seemed ridiculous. And this precisely, is the artistic value of the novel. Artistic value is not necessarily always appealing, sweet, and homey, as is art. And it is not imperative for it to be so, either. However, what is imperative is that it should be in accordance with the nature and the meaning of the piece of art, otherwise, it would counter the intended perception. At times, this synchronization between the work of art and the aesthetic sen ...
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