Typing Ellery Queen

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.

MB1(Click on the picture for a concise break down of the different types. Unfortunately couldn’t find a graphic to show this which was big enough to read)

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

Methodology

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?

Results

Rationalist: INTJ

INTJ

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.

Final Thoughts

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).

Bibliography

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.

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About armchairreviewer

Qualified English teacher, with a passion for literature and crime fiction. On a random note I also own pygmy goats and chickens with afros (it doesn't get any cooler than that).
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14 Responses to Typing Ellery Queen

  1. JJ says:

    It would appear that I’m an INTP, which has massively underestimated my tendency for introversion. Or have I massively overestimated it? Ooooo, deep…

    This is my new favourite thing on the internet, and from my reading of Queen you’ve applied it to the character very well. Excellent blog-fodder, and curious to reflect how different charatcers might answer those questions. Hmmm, here’s goes the next five hours of my life…

    Liked by 1 person

    • haha yeah I had a feeling with your mathematical background you would be a rationalist. I am an ENFJ, which makes me an idealist. In what way has this tool underestimated your tendency for introversion? It is a helpful tool with career stuff and even just figuring out why somebody rubs you up the wrong way, as often it is down to the two people communicating in different ways (F/T), obtaining information differently (N/S) or perceiving time and tasks in a different way (J/P). What is also cool is that the theory behind it can incorporate/ explain how a person’s environment/ upbringing can affect the results of the indicator.

      Like

      • JJ says:

        It gave me a 3% preference for introversion over extroversion…me, who has spent at least half his life buried in books, who spent years studying the most isolated subject possible at university, who isn’t on Facebook because it can’t cope with negative numbers of friends…me, only 3% an introvert?! Nonsense, I tell you!

        And, yeah, I can see the possibilities for how different environmental factors can lead to a lot of different outcomes with it; it could be a very interesting study. Alas, life intrudes…

        Liked by 1 person

      • hmmm does sound odd about the I/E thing. Guess it just depended on how you answered the questions which looked at that characteristic. Using the official questions from Myers Briggs may alter the percentages and also would help to isolate those specific questions more easily. But I suppose as long as you think the overall type: INTP is you, then the percentages may not matter as much. The environment is an interesting one as it can lead people to suppress letters or traits as it were if they’re not deemed valuable or “right” when growing up or people can learn other traits especially in a work environment.

        Like

  2. Pingback: The Tuesday Night Bloggers: Ellery Queen, Week 4 | Noah's Archives

  3. bkfriedman says:

    Well, I scored ESFJ, but everything was “moderate” or “slight”, which either indicates I’m a pretty balanced person or, I suspect, I’m a wuss when it comes to taking personality tests! Fascinating analysis, Kate! I do think that Ellery’s personality changed radically after his experiences in Wrightsville, especially in Ten Days Wonder, where any vestige of a smirk got wiped off of his face forever.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes I did think about Queen’s personality change and this is one of the problems with trying to do Myers Briggs on fictional characters as some writers especially over long series like to change their characters in ways they wouldn’t change if it was real life or they add things in which they think their readers expect such as the detective having qualms over convicting somebody even if they are guilty, but are not always in keeping with the character’s personality. Also I’m sure you’re not a wuss, but did you keep scoring everything in the middle (e.g. uncertain), as that will probably affect percentages etc. The original questions are set out a little differently and give you two positions or options to choose from, meaning you have to pick one or the other more. It’s important to answer the question not based on what you think is “right” or what someone should do or be, which is hard not to do, but again this would also influence test results.

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  4. This is excellent, what a brilliant idea. I do hope you will do the same with some other great detectives….

    Liked by 1 person

    • Glad you liked it. And I have thought about doing it with other detectives such as Poirot or Miss Marple. Just depends on whether the texts themselves allow me to say what they would or would not do or what they are or are not. Christie was a little sparse in her writing style after all. But we shall see…

      Like

  5. ludibundlad says:

    Really interesting post!

    It’s ironic that you should apply the MBTI to EQ, as the two writers are connected. The Queens and Isabel Briggs Myers both entered the same mystery novel competition in 1929. The prize originally went to The Roman Hat Mystery; the sponsor magazine changed hands, and the prize went to Briggs Myers’ Murder Yet to Come. Her book is weak, while the second book is lousy.

    Ellery strikes me as more of an INTP than an INTJ sleuth; the emphasis on pure logic and deductions is very Ti. An INTJ sleuth would be Nero Wolfe, Philo Vance or Dr Priestley.

    Ti? If this were an MBTI forum, by now someone would have asked: what about the Jungian cognitive functions?

    Basically there are eight functions:
    Introverted and Extraverted Sensing (Si and Se)
    Introverted and Extraverted Intuition (Ni and Ne)
    Introverted and Extraverted Thinking (Ti and Te)
    Introverted and Extraverted Feeling (Fi and Fe)

    An INTJ is someone with Introverted Intuition (Ni), Extraverted Thinking (Te), Introverted Feeling (Fi) and Extraverted Sensing (Se). An INTP – one letter apart – has no functions in common; they’re Ti Ne Si Fe.

    There’s a good overview here: http://www.alittlebitofpersonality.com/2013/10/the-cognition-process-in-stick-figures.html
    And on the S/N difference : http://www.alittlebitofpersonality.com/2013/12/Difference-Sensors-and-iNtuitives.html

    Incidentally, John Dickson Carr has been typed as an ESFP, while Freeman Wills Crofts is the epitome of ISJ-ness. Train timetables to the max, baby!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. ludibundlad says:

    And here: http://www.cognitiveprocesses.com/

    Ti (Analyzing; categorizing; evaluating according to principles and whether something fits the framework or model; figuring out the principles on which something works; checking for inconsistencies; clarifying definitions to get more precision) = INTP

    vs

    Ni (Foreseeing implications and likely effects without external data; realizing “what will be”; conceptualizing new ways of seeing things; envisioning transformations; getting an image of profound meaning or far-reaching symbols.) = INTJ

    If you think of those impressive finales in which Ellery deduces that the murderer must be a 1) bald 2) woman who 3) had access to an armadillo; and systematically eliminates the suspects until only one is left, that sounds like Ti.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Glad you liked my post and it was really interesting to find out that Myers and Queen had both entered a mystery writing competition, though it sounds like Myers found her true calling in the social sciences instead! Since this is a crime fiction focused blog and not a Myers Briggs forum I did only use the first level of the personality testing and accordingly I only did a questionnaire which looks at those initial letters. To reach INTJ I did the questionnaire as Queen – it would be interesting if you had the time and did the same questionnaire as Queen (link in post) and see if you get INTP. I then looked at the summary of the INTJ on that site and it seemed to match up to a lot of things I had seen in the Queen novels I had read. I guess you have probably read more Queens and therefore may see less or more parallels with either of these two personality types. Not looking at the cognitive functions but just at a general summary of an INTP I think there are some parts which don’t really match with Queen, on the other hand this may be because Queen is not a real person, but a character and authors do love to create a character with a distinct personality type and then as the novels progress add other character elements which just don’t fit.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Pingback: The Moving Finger (1943) by Agatha Christie in which a Female Rationalist is Greatly Maligned | crossexaminingcrime

  8. Pingback: The Dutch Shoe Mystery (1931) by Ellery Queen | crossexaminingcrime

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