Charles Parker (detective) - Character and Appearance

Character and Appearance

Parker appears from the books to be close to Wimsey's own age. He was born or raised in Barrow in Furness, a steelworks town created in the nineteenth century by the Industrial Revolution, which tends to increase the contrast between his origins and those of the aristocratic Wimsey. Parker has one elder unmarried sister, of whom he is fond though they meet seldom. (On one occasion he sends her lingerie from Paris).

Parker has evidently received a good education, and before meeting Wimsey, one of his pursuits was evangelical theory. He is mentioned as reading some Biblical commentary as a relaxation before going to sleep.

In Clouds of Witness it is noted that Parker is not usually given to sudden bright flashes of insight or spectactular displays of happy guesswork, which are "more in Wimsey's line". Rather, he had "made his way from modest beginnings to a respectable appointment in the C.I.D. by a combination of hard work, shrewdness and caution".

His skill as a detective and the resources of the Metropolitan Police (for example, he is able to summon a handwriting expert at the push of a button) often lead to his being summoned to assist baffled county police forces, who have sometimes literally trampled over vital evidence. (He remarks to Peter in Clouds of Witness as they both examine the ground where Cathcart's body was found, "Oh, that's a constable. I put him at eighteen stone.") He sometimes has to console officers from other forces who feel their efforts are inadequate.

A passage in "Unnatural Death" indicates a rather unequal division of labor between Parker and Wimsey in joint investigations, where it is tacitly taken for granted that any needed long and tedious legwork would fall to Parker. When involved in such investigation on a hot London day, Parker - grabbing a hasty snack at a sleazy restaurant - feels rather resentful when thinking of Wimsey at the same time eating at his club. However, later feeling elated by having discovered an important clue, Parker never expresses this resentment directly to Wimsey.

By appearance he is apparently nondescript, although just under six foot in height, and athletically built. He is able to mix easily in the circles frequented by Wimsey by donning the appropriate clothing (e.g. a formal evening suit). The series of books is set against a background of sometimes artificial class distinctions. When a maidservant in the household of a wealthy lady remarks (in The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club) that Parker appears to be "Quite the gentleman", the cook rebukes her, saying "No Nellie; gentlemanlike I will not deny; but a policeman is a person and I will trouble you to remember it."

Parker is the only intimate friend Wimsey has, as demonstrated by their ability to engage in witty repartee without competition or malice. The only other character with whom Peter achieves this sort of intellectual companionship is Harriet Vane. Parker is also on congenial terms with the Dowager Duchess of Denver, owing to her close relationship with her second son. (The most in-depth descriptions of the friendship between Parker and Wimsey are in "The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club" in which Ms. Sayers actually describes the two men's interactions with each other.)

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