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The Twin Peaks of Experience: Detection and Dualism on the American Frontier
© 2001 Jane Jones
"We have at least two sides. The world we live in is a world of opposites. And the trick is to reconcile those opposing things"
- David Lynch
"True words seem paradoxical"
-Tao Te Ching
I: A Tale of Two Towns
"Cherry pie wrapped in barbed wire" (Cinema) was how David Lynch, in a typically visual manner, described his creation of the town and tale of Twin Peaks , which burst onto the screens of American prime time in the spring of 1990. He might as well have chosen "blood on the doughnuts" or "fish in the coffee percolator", or any other of a number of arresting images or ideas which incisively encapsulate Twin Peaks' peculiar vision of white-picket-fence-and-mom's-apple-pie Americana gone bad.
Appropriately, Twin Peaks is a town of doubles, a place of surface and shadow. When the plastic-wrapped body of the local Homecoming Queen washes up on the shore, the ensuing investigation, headed by FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper, peels away the veneer of a small-town American idyll to reveal "a litany of American cultural taboos" (Doukal) Laura Palmer led a double-life. Saintly and civic-minded by day, she was forever-frozen for public consumption in her Homecoming photo - a golden-girl, all peaches and cream, clean-cut optimism. But as everyone, from the town psychiatrist to the dancing red dwarf, repeatedly tells us, "She's full of secrets." Laura's nocturnal activity took in every vice in the book; promiscuity, prostitution, sadomasochism and drug addiction and her dual identity comes to be symbolised by the two halves of the golden heart necklace that features in the early narrative, "The divided heart", as Dr Jacobi helpfully highlights.
But the tale of Twin Peaks is much more than the investigation of a dead-girls' double-life. The series works with two quite distinct and seemingly incompatible narrative genres, the detective story (a finite narrative) and the soap opera (an infinite narrative) , using the investigation as a point of entry into the lives of the inhabitants. Twin Peaks may seem initially to Agent Cooper to be a town "where a yellow light still means slow down instead of speed up", and the Double R Diner may in fact be the place "where pies go when they die." However, our journey into the soap opera world of Twin Peaks reveals it to be a town of double-dealing and duplicity, a haven of corrupt business practice, drug trafficking, wife-beating and marital infidelity.
The dualistic nature of Twin Peaks is emphasised throughout by a series of visual and narrative doublings. Laura's "identical" cousin, Maddy, appears in Episode 3, offering us a brunette, almost negativised, image of the dead girl. Not only did Laura's heart have two halves, but she had two boyfriends and kept two diaries. Lucy Moran's unborn child has two fathers, as does Donna Haywood. There are two sets of Mike and Bobby, one natural, one supernatural and there are real counterparts to many of the other supernatural figures, the Giant/the Bellhop, Mike/Phillip Gerrard. The use of doubles is an established motif of the Gothic, a genre from which Twin Peaks borrows numerous stylistic and narrative tropes, and serves, "to problematise the distinction between appearance and reality." (Ledwon) "The owls are not what they seem," the Giant tells Cooper cryptically as he lies bleeding on his hotel-room floor. What the owls are we never discover, but this enigmatic refrain reminds us that there is always a shadow beneath the surface in the town called Twin Peaks.
II: Two Tales of a Town
Twin Peaks is not only a tale of two towns but in fact, two tales set in one town. In addition to the marrying of the narrative conventions of murder-mystery and soap-opera, the series consists of two main story arcs. The first arc, the Laura Palmer whodunnit is physically, if not metaphysically, concluded in Episode 16. It is revealed that Laura was killed by her father Leland, who was himself a victim of another sinister doubling, having been possessed by the spirit of the evil BOB. In Episode 18 Twin Peaks, seems to start all over again, a fact emphasised by Cooper's intention to go fishing, a reference to Pete Martell's opening line of the pilot episode, "Gone fishing." Thereafter, the narrative shifts from a detective story to a power struggle between Agent Cooper and his nemesis Windom Earle.
Interestingly, not only are there two narrative arcs but each arc contains doubles. The second narrative conforms, superficially, to a morality play, as Cooper and Earle struggle for supremacy, their conflict played out in the black and white pieces of the chessboard and the hunt for entry into the Black and White Lodges. The primary detective narrative is, like all murder-mysteries, also doubled. It contains two stories; the story of the crime and the story of the detective's investigation. The first story is hidden and the role of the second story is to uncover it. This relationship between "a narrative of concealment...and... a narrative of disclosure" (Nickerson) is made explicit in an exchange between Audrey and Cooper in Episode 6.
Audrey: Laura had a lot of secrets
Cooper: My job is to find those out
As Nickerson notes, this "oscillation between the urge to repress knowledge into secrecy and the compulsion to reveal what is concealed is one of the central features of Gothic narrative." In fact, it is also this tension between concealment and revelation that generates much of the power behind Twin Peaks' most memorable visual moments; the "Gothic veil" (Ledwon) of Laura's plastic death shroud and the heavy red drapes of the Black Lodge being the most notable examples. As the enduring nature of these images suggests, the dynamic of concealment and revelation is central to Twin Peaks' thematic concerns and will be discussed in more detail later.
III: Black and White Boy - The Iconography of Agent Cooper
Dale Cooper is arguably the most monochromatic character ever to grace the colour television screen. His crisp black suit, white-shirt, black tie ensemble is seemingly standard issue FBI uniform, given the almost identical attire worn by his colleagues, Albert Rosenfeld and Gordon Cole. However, in Cooper's case the monochromatic impression is accentuated by his skin tone and hair-colour. His face - fair, pure, unblemished - is marked only by the darkness of his eyes and brows and crowned by the glory of the hair, jet-black, slicked-back and loaded with so much wax that the light bounces off it in a pattern of black and white streaks.
This black and white coding is inscribed throughout the series. We see it in many of the women; Audrey Horne, Blackie and Donna Haywood share Cooper's dark/fair complexion, and Maddy stands as a brunette double of her dead blonde cousin. We see it in objects; the black and white of the numerous chess pieces which loom ominously in the later episodes, and the pure black of Cooper's coffee, encircled by hard white porcelain. Leland Palmer's hair turns from black to white, and as Windom Earle prepares for his final assault on Cooper he paints his face white and blacks out his teeth. Invariably, when this black and white coding is disrupted, it is by the colour red, the colour of danger and desire, of sex and death. We notice the red of Audrey's lips against her pale skin and black dress, or the crimson that seeps through Cooper's white shirt after his shooting. The significance of this disruption is something I will return to later.
The monochromatic character of Twin Peaks is further empahsised by the lighting. Noir lighting frequently casts the character's faces in half-shadow. Light filters through blinds, holes in buildings or foliage to stripe or dapple the subjects. In night scenes diegetic (torches, headlights) and non-diegetic light illuminates faces, which stand out in relief against the darkness that surrounds them. This is no more evident than in the moments of Cooper's waking visions. When the Giant appears white light floods onto Cooper's face, either almost burning-out his face against the background or throwing his features into a maze of light and shade. The recurring use of high contrast lighting reaches its climax in the strobe lit scenes of the final few episodes. As Windom Earle kidnaps Miss Twin Peaks or as Cooper enters the Red Room, pulsating light fills the screen, the characters alternately illuminated then thrown into darkness.
This thoroughgoing inscription of black and white, light and shade, suggests that Twin Peaks is aiming at something more than a simple satire on the corruption of small-town American values. As Cooper's investigation moves outwards, from the body of Laura Palmer and through the local community, we discover that we are dealing with a dualistic force far greater than the duplicity of any single or group of individuals. In the Black and White Lodges we are presented with an image of profound metaphysical duality, of "the Manicheanistic twin peaks of... good and evil." (Carroll) But Twin Peaks is not a morality play. In the first instance, good does not triumph, which would seem to break the most basic rule of the form. More importantly, Twin Peaks is not fundamentally interested in ascribing moral value to one side of a polarity. Rather, it is interested in dualism as the most essential feature of ourselves, our experience and our relation to the world. Ultimately, as I intend to show, the Twin Peaks tale is an interrogation of the very nature of our binary world and an exploration of how we may hope to inhabit it in harmony.
IV: Dualism and Detection
Agent Cooper, as his black and white coding suggests, stands at the centre of Twin Peaks' binary universe, a site where opposing tendencies are brought together and contained. This characteristic is no more evident than in Cooper's investigative methodology, which includes an eclectic mixture of traditional and rather less traditional techniques. Cooper initially strikes us as a quirky but not altogether unconventional detective. He arrives in the town and busies himself looking for clues in all the right places; the body, home and immediate environment of the victim. Along the way he wins the trust of his new colleagues by impressing them with the virtuosity of his investigative insight, which in keeping with the tradition of the classical detective seems almost clairvoyant in its brilliance but which is in reality simply the application of heightened intellectual power. The most dazzling example of Cooper's analytical skill is provided when he interrupts Lucy's report with the prediction that "the man we are looking for is a biker," only to disclose that he gained this knowledge from the image of bike reflected in a video close-up of Laura Palmer's eye. "Holy Smoke" chorus a stunned Harry and Lucy.
The emergence of the figure of the classical detective in the mid-nineteenth century can be seen in historical relation to the development of Enlightenment or scientific rationality, broadly, the belief that the world can be "demystified" and rendered entirely comprehensible by the application of human reason. The detective story applies this logic to the arena of human behaviour and is in fact, "a denial of mystery" founded on the belief that "human motivation and action can be exactly specified and understood " through the use of "rational and scientific inquiry." (Caswelti) The Enlightenment tradition, still the foundation of modern scientific method and arguably the very basis of the Western world-view, is profoundly dualistic. It polarises and privileges reason over intuition, science over superstition, the conscious over the unconscious, the masculine over the feminine and man over nature. It is therefore unsurprising that we find Ronald Knox, in drawing up his ten rules of detective fiction, arguing that, "All supernatural... agencies are ruled out as a matter of course. No accident must ever help the detective, nor must he ever have an unaccountable intuition that proves to be right." (Knox)
It is in the second episode of Twin Peaks that we begin to realise that, by Knox's standards, Cooper is no kind of detective at all. The first indication is his "Tibetan method", in which Cooper drags his clearly baffled colleagues into the woods in order to participate in a deductive method which involves throwing rocks at bottles balanced on tree trunks. By way of explanation Cooper embarks on a long exposition of the history of Tibet, concluding with the apparent non-sequitur that, "Following a dream I had three years ago, I have become deeply moved by the plight of the Tibetan people, and have been filled with a desire to help them." He then informs his assembled audience that, "I also awoke from this dream realising that I had subconsciously gained knowledge of a certain deductive technique, involving mind-body coordination operating hand-in-hand with the deepest levels of intuition."
Hereafter, Cooper embarks on a series of investigative strategies designed to make the most hard-boiled of ratiocinative detectives weep. He has vivid dreams, which he regards as keys to the mystery, "Break the code, solve the crime," and waking visions in which a Giant appears to him and delivers cryptic clues, "There is a man in a smiling bag." He takes elaborate detours, "In the heat of investigative pursuit, the shortest distance between two points is not necessarily a straight line," and embraces co-incidence, "When two separate events happen simultaneously pertaining to the same object of inquiry, we must always pay strict attention." Most importantly, he often trusts his intuition and emotions over his reason, as he explains to Major Briggs, "It would seem that logic would dictate that these investigations be considered separate entities. However, I believe otherwise. I believe that these mysteries are complementary versions of the same song. Now, I cannot hear it yet, but I can feel it and that's enough for me."
The polarisation of reason and emotion/intuition is highlighted by the words of the One Armed Man to Cooper, "You have all the clues you need. The answer is not here, my friend (gesturing to Cooper's forehead). The answer his here (pointing to his heart)" This reminds us that the division between the poles is ontologically manifested in the spilt between mind and body. Martha Nochimson's feminist reading of Cooper sees him as a revolutionary detective in that he is not subject to the traditional investigator's fear of the flesh. Nochimson argues that the disruptive or dangerous force in traditional detective fiction is often represented by "the body of a deadly (or dead) woman," the crime of the woman's body being "illegibility." The body, representative of the emotions and unconscious , is not easily penetrable by reason and hence the eagerness of the traditional phallocentric detective to get inside it, using a battery of scalpels and scanners, in order to excavate its meaning. Cooper himself, in his early traditional role, exhibits this behaviour, driving a scalpel deep under Laura Palmer's fingernail to pull out a paper letter.
But as Cooper moves away from the role of a ratiocinative detective, his attitude, and relationship, to Laura's body shifts. As Albert Rosenfeld, a paradigm of forensic heartlessness , wields an inordinately large drill over Laura and prepares to bore a hole in her skull, Cooper intervenes in order to protect the body from further invasion. The ensuing ding-dong between Rosenfeld and Harry Truman culminates in Rosenfeld being thrown across Laura's body in a position that clearly suggests "the perverse necrophilia inherent in the Holmesian passion." (Nochimson) "How appropriate," comments Rosenfeld, although for somewhat different reasons. The approach of the classical detective represents an objectification of the feminine body, and in the opening episodes of Twin Peaks, this is principally how we see Laura, "the deadest-looking thing (my italics) ever to appear on TV." (???????) However, Laura increasing becomes an active participant in the investigation of her own murder. We hear her voice, in her tapes to Dr Jacobi or the imitations of Waldo the minor-bird, and most significantly, she appears to Cooper in the first of his Red-Room dreams and whispers the name of her killer in his ear. Just prior to this moment of revelation, Laura leans over Cooper and kisses him, providing a striking visual image of another of the ways Cooper differs from the traditional detective, his acceptance of the sensuality, and by extension vulnerability, of his own body.
As Nochimson notes, the traditional "cinema sleuth is second only to Bugs Bunny in ignoring torn limbs or bullet holes as he struggles to solve the mystery." By contrast, Cooper is floored by his shooting and simply lies there, bleeding profusely for what seems like an interminable time while the geriatric bellhop bumbles about with warm milk. He calmly dictates to Diane,
outlining his desires to "climb a tall hill, sit in the long grass and feel the sun on my face," and "make love to a beautiful women who" he has "genuine affection for." His calmness and comments reveal him to be a sensualist who does not fear his body as a site of either desire or danger. As he further notes to Diane, "All things considered, being shot is not... bad, as long as you can keep the fear from your mind." Significantly, it is the experience of the penetration of his own body that first brings Cooper into contact with the friendly Giant, who will serve as a guide on the rest of his journey. Cooper's sensuality is reflected throughout his daily life, in his love of coffee and pie and admiration of the local flora and fauna. However, while these "persistent sidetrips into sensuality are comic," they are "not frivolous," for they create a detective with a "new sensibility... in which the sensuous loses its coding as a distraction to be scrupulously avoided." Cooper then, stands as a truly new kind of detective hero, one who utilises the power of both reason and intuition, as his elucidation of his "Tibetan method" reminds us, he is a "mind-body" detective.
V: Wild, Wild West
"Laura was wild," Audrey tells Donna, highlighting a further aspect of the dualism at work in Twin Peaks. The polarisation of the wild and the civilised has a long lineage in Western strorytelling, from European myth and folklore to that most American of genres, the Western. The wilderness, the space beyond the boundaries of the town, has traditionally been coded as a site of danger, a place where mysterious forces and supernatural beings run riot without reference to the laws of culture and reason. Twin Peaks adopts this dualism. Sheriff Truman speaks of "the evil in these woods," and the forest is clearly established as the site of the horror that plagues the town. It is where Laura was murdered, where Windom Earle sets up residence and ultimately, the location of the Black Lodge, home of the evil spirit BOB.
However, Twin Peaks is not interested in setting up traditional polarities and simply reinforcing them. Throughout the text the poles of nature and culture are inverted and interrogated by the conflation of internal and external, domestic and natural space. The interiors of many of the buildings, most noticeably the Great Northern Hotel, Blue Pine Lodge and the Sheriff's Station, are awash with natural materials and objects. Not only are the walls, ceilings and floors almost uniformly constructed of wood but all manner of furnishings are built from natural materials, from Cooper's log frame bed to the deer antler chandelier's and door handles of the Great Northern. The walls teem with stuffed animals and landscape paintings and the rooms are filled with plants, the most striking example being Harold Smith's internal forest of orchids. When Cooper demonstrates his "Tibetan Method" he reassembles the Sheriff's station in the woods complete with whiteboard, chairs and the obligatory doughnut table. The Black Lodge, clearly an interior space, is also located in the forest, the disjunction between the spaces rendered visually when the Lodge's red drapes materialise in the centre of a circle of sycamore trees above a pool of back engine oil.
This "enigmatic interpenetration of opposites" is also represented in the series' opening title sequence in which robins and waterfalls dissolve into "artifacts of an industrialised logging industry which spews thick smoke from it's smoke stacks and generates spearlike golden sparks from its gears." (Nochimson) We see it in the pair of cutaways used between scenes in the first series, the traffic lights at Sparkwood and 21 opposed to the rustling of wind through the Douglas Fir branches. Perhaps most memorably, this "clashing of organic and inorganic" (Carroll) is present in the pale white face of the dead Laura Palmer wreathed by transparent plastic, as Pete Martell tells Truman, "She's dead... wrapped in plastic."
This juxtaposition of organic and inorganic, inversion of exterior and interior suggests a dialectical relationship between the poles of nature and culture, which is, in fact, embodied by Agent Cooper. On the one hand Cooper is clearly an agent of civilisation, an employee of the federal government and defender of the law, but he is simultaneously, like any true American hero, a "lover of the spirit of the wilderness." (Carroll) On arriving in Twin Peaks Cooper's primary concern is to find out about the local flora, his first exchange with Sheriff Truman comically highlighting his dualistic nature.
Cooper: Sherrif, what kind of fantastic trees have you got growing around here? Big majestic...
Truman: Douglas Firs
Cooper: (In awe) Doulas firs.
(Matter of factly) Can someone get me a copy of the coroner's report?
This ambivalent relationship between civilisation and nature is the stuff of American legend.
Without the luxury of collective history and tradition to bind its people together the United States founded it's national identity on the democratic ideal and the creation of "the noblest and purest constitution the face of the earth." (Thomas Paine) It was thus that a "mythic role" was created for the "lawyers, judges, sherriffs and whole legal tribe as the carriers of civilisation to the American wilderness," (Gid Powers) and it was on the American frontier that the inherent contradictions in the democratic ideal were played out. As Alexis De Toqueville noted in his seminal Democracy in America, in the democratic principle "I very clearly discern two tendencies; one leading the mind of every man to untried thoughts, the other prohibiting him from thinking at all." Democracy is designed to ensure the freedom of the individual, but for a democratic society to function effectively the individual must participate in and adhere to social convention. The American frontier was a mythic space which both represented the conquest of the wilderness by civilisation and was sufficiently geographically removed from the centres of civilisation 'back East' to give the individual freedom from the constrictions of society and law.
In some sense Twin Peaks is clearly a Western town. Not only is it located in the Pacific Northwest, just above the end of the 'Oregon Trail', but the Sheriff wears a shiny gold badge and a cowboy hat. A vast number of scenes are almost entirely brown and filled with natural materials, a direct link to the mise-en-scene and colour palette of the traditional Western. Truman tells Cooper that Twin Peaks is "a long way from the rest of the world," and as such the town "may be viewed as a retreat to the wilderness - a symbolic gesture of escape from the corruption of civilisation." (Carroll) It is into this dialectic of nature and civilisation, individual freedom and social constriction that Agent Cooper is inserted. While he is a representative of the legal machinery of Washington, his bonding with Sheriff Truman, initiation into the secret society of the Bookhouse Boys and appreciation for the natural wilderness of Twin Peaks clearly "identify him with the honest, 'natural' behaviour of the... frontiersmen." (Carroll)
The law enforcer as a site of negotiation between the poles of individual freedom and civic responsibility has a long history in American culture. It stretches from the private eye of the forties hard-boiled genre, through Westerns and the many maverick TV cops, to the most currently popular Federal Agent, Fox Mulder, who works from within the FBI to uncover the corruption and conspiracy perpetrated by the American government. America's recent historical paranoia about the abuse of governmental power, as inscribed in The X Files , derives from the foundation of the nation on the purity of the democratic ideal and stands in direct relation to the dialectic of freedom and society, nature and culture, represented by Twin Peaks and the mythology of the Wild West.
VI: Freedom from Fear
The concept of duality contains within it the concept of the boundary. The wilderness is separated from the civilised by the boundary of the town. The spotlight of reason illuminates the world and beyond its limits, the monsters of the unconscious and irrational inhabit the darkness. A number of critics have identified Cooper's personal strength as residing in his talent as a 'boundary crosser,' and it is this feature, I contend, that most clearly embodies Twin Peaks' dialectical world-view. FBI agents are, by definition, the law enforcers that deal with crimes committed across federal borders. Cooper's awareness of boundaries and his movement across them is clearly highlighted by his opening line, "Diane, it's 11.30 am and I'm entering the town of Twin Peaks, 5 miles south of the Canadian border, 12 miles west of the state line." Cooper happily extends his investigations from Twin Peaks to One-Eyed Jacks, on the Canadian side of the border, and it is for this violation of FBI protocol, operating beyond his jurisdiction, that he is temporarily suspended from the FBI.
But Cooper is gifted at more than the crossing of physical boundaries. Throughout the series he moves fluidly and confidently across the divide between reason and intuition, conscious and unconscious, mind and body, nature and culture, demonstrating that "the heart of detection is the magic of boundary crossing." (Nochimson) Hague, using Carse's philosophical distinction between "finite" and " infinte play," characterises Cooper as a an "infinite player" in contrast to the rule-governed, binary rigidity of a "finite player" like Windom Earle. "Finite players play within boundaries," whereas "infinite players play with boundaries," (Hague) a contrast demonstrated in their differing approaches to the binary, rule-governed, delimited world of the chess game. Earle believes that "all of life could be found in the patterns and conflicts of the board," whereas Cooper starts to "focus out beyond the board at the bigger game." His attempt to change the oppositional rules of engagement by creating a stalemate is a strategy that enrages Earle, who cannot stand "people who don't play by the rules." .
Twin Peaks is full of symbols of boundaries, whose power, as discussed, derives from the dynamic of concealment and revelation. The most enduring image, the red drapes of The Black Lodge - echoed by the curtains at the Roadhouse and even Nadine's obsession with "100% silent drape runners" - can teach us about our dualistic response to boundaries. The curtain conceals, and we simultaneously want to know what is behind it while being frightened of what it might be. As the red coding that disrupts Twin Peaks' black and white universe indicates, our response to boundaries is part desire, part dread. The body, the unconscious, the forest, promise adventure and discovery but they are also fraught with danger. Boundaries not only conceal, but contain and control. While the series interrogates boundaries it recognises their value. The importance of containment is most clearly realised in the images of fire. The numerous domestic fires contained in hearths are obviously beneficent and contrasted with the destructive walls of flame that engulf the screen in the later episodes. Uncontained fire is linked to unrestrained sexual appetite in the symbol of BOB whose epithet "Fire walk with me," echoes through the series.
Nochimson sees Cooper's boundary crossing skills as deriving from his connection to the "intelligent fluidity of his body." and Hague from his ability to "trust... the intuitive dimension of his unconscious." In Jungian terms the unconscious is an area where we "give up the power and control that characterise conscious activity... where logical, categorical and binary oppositional thinking disappears." (Hague) Ultimately, binary thought derives from the basic opposition of subject and object, the very foundation of the relationship between ourselves and the world. But in the realm of the unconscious this too breaks down and the individual experiences an "ego loss that eliminates the boundaries separating the I from the rest of the world." (Hague) This 'elastic ego' enables the individual to merge with others, and hence we arrive at Cooper's psychic abilities; the visions he shares with Sarah Palmer or the dream he shared with Laura. The key to this remarkable ability ultimately resides in Cooper's ability to operate in freedom from fear. As our a response to boundaries and what lays beyond them reveals, the need to delimit the world, to polarise and privilege aspects of ourselves and experience, is simply a response to potential danger and a consequence of our profound anxiety of the unknown and the uncontrolled. As Cooper notes, bleeding on his hotel room floor, "I guess you could say... about most anything in life, it's not so bad as long as you can keep the fear from your mind."
VII: Imperfect Courage
If Cooper is so remarkably gifted, how then does he come so spectacularly unstuck, his soul cleaved in two and partially possessed by BOB? With its long red corridors and irrational geography, The Black Lodge is a place that in conventional ratiocinative terms, represents a "crisis of illegibility." (Nochimson) Its black/white/red landscape is the site where Twin Peaks' discourse of duality reaches its visual and narrative climax. In the Black Lodge, Cooper "encounters a series of positive/negative images that continually split and fuse with one another," (Hague) We discover that the Giant and the Dwarf, are, in fact "One and the Same" and Cooper meets a number of familiar characters and their sinister 'doppelgangers.' A strobe light flashes intermittently and the characters speak strangely, an effect achieved by recording backward speech backwards and playing it forwards. The Black Lodge closely resembles Jung's description of the unconscious as a space of "unprecedented uncertainty, with apparently no inside and no outside, no above and no below, no here and no there, no good and no bad."
But Cooper is an expert in crossing boundaries, in integrating polarities, so what goes wrong? The answer seems to lie in his motivation for entering the Lodge, to rescue the woman he loves. As our reaction to boundaries tells us, desire and dread are intimately connected; if we love something, we fear its loss. Cooper's anxiety about Annie disables his ability to deal fluidly with duality. He attempts to understand and control the situation instead of allowing his elastic ego to merge with it. He tries to impose meaning on his environment rather than letting it emerge. He strains his eyes in the strobe light that "cannot illuminate anything" (Nochimson) and runs from room to room looking for Annie. "Wrong way," the Dwarf tells him, ostensibly about his orientation but perhaps more profoundly about his approach. Even his cup of coffee, the symbol of the personal ritual with which he binds his world, doesn't make sense to him. The coffee turns from solid to viscose liquid and Cooper's face clouds with fear. Laura Palmer screams theatrically at him and he runs away in terror, physically manifested by blood pouring from his stomach, a red trail left on the binary zigzag floor. As the strobe flashes in conjunction with an alternating sidelight, his face becomes an incomprehensible complex of light and shade and he appears to fracture before our very eyes.
Prior to his journey into The Black Lodge, Hawk tells Cooper that "It is the shadow self of the White Lodge... Legend says that every spirit must pass through there on the way to perfection. There you will meet your shadow self." Ultimately, Cooper's inability to integrate his "shadow self," to maintain the dialect between subject and object, reason and intuition, conscious and unconscious, is responsible for his undoing. Fear locks him into "a mode of being that sees the world as a series of binary oppositions, "(Hague) and "he loses his power to cross boundaries." (Nochimson) Finally, he physically splits in two. As Hawk warned Cooper, entering The Black Lodge with "imperfect courage" will "utterly annihilate your soul." As a meditation on the reductive and fearful nature of our dualistic world-view we find here a lesson for us all.
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