The novel "The Third Policeman" written by Flann O'Brien is written from the perspective of a narrator, who lives with his parents on a farm. After some years his parents leave him without any reason. From this time the narrator is taken to an expensive boarding school. At the age of sixteen years he starts getting interested in the studies of a philosopher called de Selby. Three years later he has an accident and loses his left leg. For this reason he gets 'one leg made of wood'. At the age of twenty he goes back to his farm and meets a man called John Divney who has been living there while he was away. Because both are very poor, they kill a man called Phillip Mathers to steal the money he usually carries around in a box. But Divney hides the box and does not tell the narrator, where he has left it. For this reason the narrator does not allow Divney to leave him. After three years he tells him, that he has hidden the box in Phillip Mathers' house. Till this time the two characters have never left each other. The narrator seems to distrust Divney so much, that he does not allow him to come with him to fetch the box. When he enters old Mathers' house he sees him sitting in a chair. The narrator becomes frightened and finds one possible explanation for this occurrence: "Perhaps the murder by the roadside was a bad dream." The narrator also recognizes that he has got a soul. "But who uttered these words? They had not frightened me. They were clearly audible to me yet I knew they did not ring out across the air like the chilling cough of the old man in the chair. They came from deep inside me, from my soul. Never before had I believed or suspected that I had a soul but just then I knew I had. I knew also that my soul was friendly, was my senior in years and was solely concerned from my welfare. For convenience I called him Joe. I felt a little reassured to know that I was not altogether alone. Joe was helping me." He asks Philip Mathers many questions with the aim of finding out the hiding place of the box. Old Mathers' tells the narrator a colour theory, which says that people with a light colour predominating at the birthday will have a long life. When the narrator asks who can tell him his colour, he is told, that just three policemen called Sergeant Pluck, Mac Cruiskeen and Fox who disappeared twenty five years ago have the gift of seeing the wind. The narrator starts searching the barracks of the policeman because he thinks that they must be able to tell him where the box is. On his way to the policemen the narrator is observed by the murderer Martin Finnucane who wants to rob and kill him. When he recognizes that the narrator has a wooden leg, he spares him telling that he was "the captain of all the one legged men in the country" . The narrator goes on walking and finally finds the house of the policemen. He meets Sergeant Pluck and tells him that his American gold watch has been stolen. But the Sergeant does not believe the narrator because the most important things in his life seem to be bicycles because he says: <Why should anybody steal a watch when they can steal a bicycle> . The sentence "I decided without any hesitation that it was a waste of time trying to understand the half of what he said" shows that the narrator does not understand the Sergeant. When the narrator says that he does not have a name, the Sergeant tells him that he cannot be able to own anything because only persons who have a name can own something. A few days later Inspector O'Corky appears and tells, that Phillip Mathers has been murdered. The narrator supposes that Martin Finnucane has killed him, but the Sergeant suspects the narrator. When he decides to hang him, the narrator is shocked, but he tries to save his life by telling the Sergeant that he cannot be punished, because he is "invisible to the law" , because he does not have an identity. But the Sergeant decides that the narrator can be hanged, because everything he does "is a lie" and nothing happening to him is true. His life is saved by the "one-legged men" who send him the following message: "ONE - LEGGED MEN ON THEIR WAY TO RESCUE PRISONER. MADE A CALCULATION ON TRACKS AND ESTIMATE NUMBER IS SEVEN. SUBMITTED PLEASE. - FOX" . When he goes home, he meets his old friend Divney, who is twenty years older, although the narrator has been away for three days. Divney dies of freight, and both walk along the road to hell and the same terrible adventures happen to them again. It becomes clear that the narrator has been dead for the whole time, and everything happening to him, happens to him in a sort of hell. This is the punishment for the thoughtless killing of Phillip Mathers.
Message of the novel: The Third Policeman can be seen as criticism of Flann O'Brien against the political situation of Ireland during his life. In 1926 twenty six counties were put together to the Irish Free State. Just the six northern counties voted for the joining of England. In 1949 Ireland proclaimed its independence. The author Flann O'Brien was confronted with many political problems of his home country Ireland. Indeed Ireland is described as a "queer country" . Such a statement indicates to the peculiar nature of the Irish political situation, especially expressing the dissatisfaction with the Irish Free State.
All in all I liked reading this novel. Because it belongs to surrealistic literature, the action and the peculiar behaviour of the protagonists is often not understandable, and this is the main reason, why the story seems funny.