10

YOUTH AND CLASS ANXIETIES IN THE URBAN DETECTIVE 

"I can’t say I fancy these society cases."
- From Young Broadbrim's Deal With Death

<em>Young Broadbrim's Deal With Death; or, The Finish of a Fiend</em> (Young Broadbrim Weekly no. 80)




The portrayal of class in Young Broadbrim, too, is not without nuance. Beyond its domesticating function, the rags-to-riches narrative does make space to address the class anxieties that were a common concern of the detective genre. While older detectives may make use of countless disguises, pretending to be various classes and ethnic stereotypes in the course of a novel, the boy hero as a young person has the potential for total transformation. In Young Broadbrim’s Deal with Death, Harry first finds himself trapped in a mansion whose wealthy occupants are trying to kill him; later, he travels to the “lowest slum” of the city where the female criminal lives. We see that Harry is able to traverse class boundaries but finds both environments fraught with danger. At many points he questions the meaningfulness of  "society cases" which only protect the consolidation of wealth in the upper class.

As the Young Broadbrim series progresses, Old Broadbrim appears rarely, and Harry seems to criticize the older generation of detectives and their tactics as well as the police force. In Young Broadbrim on a Newsboy Mystery, he mocks police detective tactics saying you should never ask a witness for the truth directly. Interestingly, that's exactly what his mentor Old Broadbrim did in previous issues: “I am a detective, you know better than to lie to me.”1 So while Young Broadbrim fits the upwardly mobile apprentice mold, his ties to authority are still flexible. His very appeal lies in his ability to remain in a liminal state, before complete domestication.

1. Old Broadbrim One The Wrong Case; or, Revenge After Twenty Years. Print. 29.