This is my final post on Ellery Queen for the Tuesday Night Bloggers and for the past three weeks I have been pondering how to analyse the character of Ellery Queen himself and it has only been in the last week I have been inspired with an idea. Typing in the case of my post title does not mean literal typing, but personality typing and I have decided to look at Queen using the Myers Briggs Personality Type Indicator, a tool I am quite familiar with and which has high validity and is used in careers advice, workplaces and relationship counselling. This is an indicator which was developed by ‘Isabel Briggs Myers, and her mother, Katharine Briggs’ (Myers and Briggs Foundation, 2015) and involves completing a questionnaire whose questions focus on how the answerer perceives and responds to things. There are sixteen personality types within this indicator, comprised of 4 letters, with each letter denoting personality traits/ qualities. For each letter position there is a choice of two options:
Favourite world: Do you prefer to focus on the outer world or on your own inner world? This is called Extraversion (E) or Introversion (I).
Information: Do you prefer to focus on the basic information you take in or do you prefer to interpret and add meaning? This is called Sensing (S) or Intuition (N).
Decisions: When making decisions, do you prefer to first look at logic and consistency or first look at the people and special circumstances? This is called Thinking (T) or Feeling (F).
Structure: In dealing with the outside world, do you prefer to get things decided or do you prefer to stay open to new information and options? This is called Judging (J) or Perceiving (P).
[A good question to ask yourself for this group which is to do with organisation and time skills, is if you are given a task to do within 2 weeks, do you start on it straight away and finish early (work first, play later) or do you only do the task at the last minute (play now, work later)? If you fit closest with the former you’re a J and you are a P if you fir the latter closest.]
(Myers and Briggs Foundation, 2015)
Within the 16 types of personality there are four groups, comprised of four of these personalities: Idealists, Guardians, Artisans and Rationalists. The four personalities in a group all share two letters or traits in common.
For further information on what these traits and personality groups entail as for example Judging, does not mean the person is judgemental, see The Myers and Briggs Foundation Website or Humanmetrics. You can even take a version of the test yourself and see what you come out as.
Back to Ellery Queen
Having given a whistle stop tour of what Myers Briggs is, I am now going to take the character of Ellery Queen and see what personality type he has and in doing so see how his personality type may support his detective work. To do this I answered a Myers Briggs questionnaire, answering the questions as though I was Ellery Queen myself. I will say at the outset that obviously I can only base my answers on the books I have read and on the information they have given me about Queen’s character. Moreover, this test is more about the consistent traits a person exhibits as opposed to one off occurrences.
To see the questions I answered click here: http://www.humanmetrics.com/cgi-win/jtypes2.asp (These are not the original Myers Briggs questions, but having seen the originals, the questions I answered here are not radically different.)
So what group do you think Queen fits into?
So what does this mean?
[All quotes concerning the traits of INTJs are from Humanmetrics, 2015]
Ignoring the specific numbers displayed in the results, as obviously I was doing this test based on a fictional character so they are not going to be as accurate as if a real person did it for themselves, I want to focus on the general attributes of an INTJ and see if I can tie them into the Queen stories.
First things firsts, ‘INTJs may appear to project an aura of “definiteness”, of self-confidence… [which] sometimes [can be] mistaken for simple arrogance’. This description I feel already typifies Ellery Queen’s character, as self-confidence and assurance are two words easily linked to him. For example, both the following comments/descriptions could be read as arrogance or assurance on Queen’s part depending on the listener:
‘The trouble is, as Ellery likes to point out, that all puzzles are irritatingly cryptic until you know the answer, and then you wonder why you were baffled so long.’
‘…recognise the pattern and you’re within shooting distance of the ultimate truth.’
Moreover, in The Origin of Evil (1951), Laurel Hill frequently gets infuriated with Ellery due to the fact she reads his confidence in his methods and the investigative process as arrogance instead. Research suggests that this confidence comes from the fact that INTJs have ‘specialised knowledge systems’ or ‘areas of expertise’. An example of a modern area of expertise might be computers or if you’re Sherlock Holmes then it might be cigarette ash types. However, for Queen I would say his expertise is in reasoning, logical thinking and creatively problem solving. Furthermore I found it interesting that INTJs are meant to ‘know what they know, and perhaps still more importantly… know what they don’t know’. I think this comes across well in The Chinese Orange Mystery (1934) where when Queen is initially confronted with the dead body and the clues, his focus is on highlighting the outré areas of the case such as the furniture and clothes being back to front and the presence of fruit peel and in emphasising and worrying out these points he is also acknowledging out loud the things he does and doesn’t know about the case.
INTJs are also said to be imaginative and reliable in the sense that whatever project or task they are doing they will be determined to complete it or see it through to the end. For example, in The Spanish Cape Mystery (1935), Queen refers to catching criminals as something almost compulsive within him, not for reasons of executing justice but for a need to solve a puzzle or problem, ‘it’s merely the mathematician in me’. It is noted though that INTJs can ‘disregard… authority’ and ‘be unsparing of both themselves and the others on the project’. The way Queen takes matters into his own hands, in Ten Days’ Wonder (1948) epitomises his lack of attention to authority and following by the rules, whilst it is evident in the stories that Queen devotes enormous amount of time and energy in his cases at times, there are also instances of him delegating perhaps ‘unsparing[ly]’ tasks on others such as in The Origin of Evil.
It is therefore also not surprising that INTJs sometimes ‘take upon themselves to implement critical decisions without consulting’ others first such as when Ellery tells the policeman guarding the victim’s bedroom to leave the door unsupervised in The Spanish Cape Mystery. Due to their confidence in their own knowledge, INTJs may have less respect for those who are seen as not pulling their weight or whose ideas do not meet the rigorous standards of their own thinking and I think a bit of this can be seen in Queen’s derogatory responses to other investigative officers when they say something incorrect or don’t follow or agree with his line of thought. For example in The Spanish Cape Mystery, a police officer says that an idea ‘stands to reason,’ which causes Queen to loudly respond back with, ‘nothing stands to reason until it can be demonstrated logically that alternatives do not stand to reason.’
Moreover, INTJs are considered to be pragmatists and from examining their own endeavors to even ‘prevailing social norms,’ the ruling question is ‘Does it work?’ The consequences of this can be an ‘independence of mind, free[d]… from the constraints of authority, convention, or sentiment for its own sake.’ In The Spanish Cape Mystery, Queen is described as ‘a practical creature’ and in his own words he is ‘Coleridge’s “thought-benighted sceptic’ and he also says ‘I question everything. Sometimes I even question the results of my own thinking. My mental life is very involved.’ These examples align Queen with the ‘Does it work?’ mental attitude and in The Greek Coffin Mystery (1932), Queen is not above recognising his current ideas are wrong and need to be changed. Also in regards to authority and convention, the novels are littered with instances of Queen ignoring authority constraints, such as holding onto clues, giving policemen orders which contravene orders given from superior officers and even allowing the guilty to go unpunished.
In addition though, I feel that Ellery’s ability to construct or build chains of events or cases ties into the strength of INTJs of being ‘known as the “System Builders”’ and although the typical career of an INTJ is in the sciences or engineering, ‘they can be found wherever a combination of intellect and incisiveness are required’ and those two skills are definitely needed in the cases Ellery solves. Furthermore, at the start of The Chinese Orange Mystery, there is a quote which states that ‘the solution… of a crime calls for a combination of scientist and seer,’ and I feel the latter is covered by Ellery’s intuitive qualities (N) and the epitaph of ‘the thinking machine,’ which is applied to Queen in this same story also reinforces Queen’s logic and reasoning abilities in building up a case.
The results did also look at how INTJs are in relationships, but since this doesn’t strictly apply to the arena of detection and also I don’t think I have read enough Queen to comment on it, I have left this information out, though I do think that the ‘extremely private’ nature of INTJs is perhaps exhibited in The Origin of Evil, where various female characters struggle to comprehend, judge or read Queen correctly.
Well based on the emphasis Queen places on logic, seeing him turn out as a rationalist was not that surprising, but I did find the number of ways he meets the qualities associated with INTJs intriguing. Moreover, I would be interested to hear from readers who have perhaps read more Queen novels than I have and see if they agree with my analysis. It might be for example that some people think Queen is more of an extrovert or more or less organised, which would affect the first and last letters (ENTP, INTP, ENTJ). This would change what type of rationalist he is and perhaps give his character a different slant. However, I feel reasonably confident that the middle two letters would probably stay the same as in my mind I struggle to see Queen fitting into the other categories of Guardian (SJ), Idealist (NF) or Artisan (SP).
Anon. (2015). INTJ. Available: http://www.humanmetrics.com/personality/intj. Last accessed 18/11/2015.
Anon. (2015). MBTI Basics. Available: http://www.myersbriggs.org/my-mbti-personality-type/mbti-basics/. Last accessed 18/11/2015.