The fog is a clear metaphor for the confusion that surrounds Muldoon Manor, both in the play-within-a-play and the drama that concerns Moon and Birdboot. The fog is also a trope of murder mysteries, an external force that adds a layer of spookiness and contrives to keep the characters isolated from the world.
Inspector Hound's getup
When Inspector Hound shows up at Muldoon Manor, he is wearing swamp boots. In the stage directions, Stoppard describes them as, "two inflatable - and inflated - pontoons with flat bottoms about two feet across. He carries a foghorn." The Inspector should be a respected detective, cutting an impressive image of authority. Here, Hound is ridiculous. Introducing the detective with giant pontoons strapped to his feet pokes fun at the murder mystery genre and a sense of authority in general, as Absurdist drama aims to expose the emptiness behind supposed absolutes.
The staging in the opening of the play
"The first thing is that the audience appear to be confronted by their own reflection in a huge mirror. Impossible."
This stage direction opens The Real Inspector Hound. Immediately, it skewers the act of attending a play, by putting another audience on stage. It first appears as if the critics are watching the audience, suggesting that all of reality is merely a performance to be dissected and analyzed. This staging also breaks the fourth wall - the separation between the audience and actors onstage, with the drama onstage consisting of a self-contained reality not to be broken by the outside world. In a play concerning the falsity of identity, even the audience is not safe from scrutiny.
Gascoyne and Hound in the critics' seats
Moon finding Gascoyne and Hound in his and Birdboot's critics' seats signals the breakdown of order and the merging of the on- and off-stage realities. The image of the two actors playing critic, reviewing the actual critic who struggles to both stay alive and keep his footing in the drama, adds more layers to the notion of performance. Are the actors playing critics? Are the characters? Who do Moon and Birdboot become when they are onstage? Is the role of the critic a performance, just like "Simon" and "Hound" are fictive parts?
The Real Inspector Hound Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for The Real Inspector Hound is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
Hound appears in the middle of the play to investigate an alleged phone call. His character takes its inspiration from Hound of the Baskervilles, the third of four crime novels featuring Sherlock Holmes and published in 1902. In that novel, the...