I Don’t Know

. Something I love is when a character, or an author says ‘I don’t know’.

Sometimes, especially in crime or horror novels, the hero/heroine ends up giving a whole long list of explainations for every tiny little incident, and it gets just a bit dull. Or you start wondering ‘how exactly to you know that?’. Personally, I feel it’s more human when they say ‘I don’t know’.

Sometimes, in science fiction novels, a character – not a scientist – will give a long detailed explaination as to how some random piece of technology works. We expect them to. Yet, if some one from 1755 landed in front of you, and said ‘Prithee Sir, explain this wondrous being, a car? Or TV? How do they work?’ how many of us could manage anything beyond ‘Umm…’.

I was reading The Phantom of the Opera. There are parts – especially towards the end – when something happens, and Gaston Leroux, the author, adds a little footnote, explaining ‘I don’t know what this is’ or ‘I don’t know what happened here’. I love those moments. There’s no reason for one shadowy figure beyond it’s not the Opera Ghost – and that lets my imagination run riot. Is it a real ghost? Someone else entirely? (There’s a school of thought that thinks Gaston Leroux meant it to be Sherlock Holmes, whilst he was hiding from Moriaty, as Leroux was a fervent Holmesian).

‘I don’t know’ makes the author/character seems just as human as you and I, and just as puzzled and excited and confused as we are. And leaving something unexplained retains that sense of mystery – and lets us play the game too, by working something out for ourselves.

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