The predicament we face trying to understand this story is putting together Bun’s unusual powers & Bun’s terrible fate. Bun himself raises this question, whether he will not get killed because of his ability to solve crime. Now, about Bun’s ability we know that he sees things others cannot see & that he talks about these things. Provisionally, we must entertain the thought that his eventual murder is caused by his saying what he saw.
Unless it is good to die, we must further entertain the thought that Bun does not look to the good. He certainly does not seem to want to die. He does not kill himself. He does not fight for his life, however. Moreover, he shows a lack of concern for his own life, risking it repeatedly, & enduring grievous harm. He mutilates himself once. Bun does not love pain, but he ignores his body.
So this is our great difficulty: Bun not only foresees the possibility of his death, but he also proves his intelligence by solving many crimes, especially the last murder. His greatest success leads him to death & completes his disgrace. In death, he will be remembered as a madman & a criminal. This will deter everyone from attempting what Bun attempted, no doubt, but we must inquire, why must Bun die this ugly death?
Let us talk frankly about the political facts. All characters that look to justice pay with their lives; & only some of those that do not survive. So it is Bun’s great philanthropy that gets him killed. He wants to do good for people by solving crimes & by preventing crimes.
If only we could be as frank about the psychological facts… Bun’s love of justice leads him to the discovery of soul. This breaks up the unity of man. Man is one body, or else the law could not punish him. But what moves the body? Soul is not simple. Trying to treat crime as a matter of cause & effect, Bun learns that criminals are complicated creatures. He is led to personify the parts of the soul as different people. This causes Bun’s insanity: He abandons the phenomena, which have added to them the sanction of the laws.
Bun is himself complicated. His desire to punish does not control him. He also wants to solve crimes, which requires reasoning. This leads him to see that some men are really scared children or gluttonous cowards: They are not responsible for their actions, therefore, so how could the laws punish them? Hell, how could such creatures be allowed to vote? Bun replaces body by soul, just like the politics of enlightenment. He exposes what is naturally concealed.
One of the best detective stories of this generation. A noble story, the nobler for its understatement.