Much has been made of the possible significance of the fish icon used by Peter Marlin, and also of his habit of signing himself exclusively by his initials. One has to be wary of reading too much into these things - I feel that whatever the situation, it will always be possible to find both meaning and relevance if one only searches for them; it does not necessarily follow that such meaning exists or was intended. However, if we accept Marlin's deliberate use of spelling errors as a reality, and we surely have little option but to do so, we cannot then discount the possibility of further design elsewhere.
On the surface, the explanation appears simple: the marlin is a fish. If an individual with that name wishes to employ a symbol in place of a signature, a fish is the obvious choice. Yet, as many people are only too keen to point out, the fish is also a religious symbol of significance to the Christian faith. It has been used since New Testament times to signify a follower of Christ. Admittedly there is a cosmetic difference between the religious symbol and the one used by Marlin, namely that Marlin's fish consistently features a closed tail, whilst the Christian equivalent tends to be drawn as a single open-tailed loop. This has not prevented the connection being made quite readily however.
Add to this the style of language employed by Marlin in both his letters and phone calls, which at times could almost be described as Messianic, and it is easy to make a case for the religious angle. The man's opening words were "MY NAME SHALL BE CALLED PETER MARLIN", and it cannot be denied that this phraseology has something of a Biblical tone, reminiscent of the proclamation of Christ's birth.
Does this make Peter Marlin a religious crank? I feel the case is unproven. At no point does Marlin mention God, or make reference to any form of Christian crusade - highly unusual for a person whose actions are fuelled by religious zeal. In my experience, those who believe they are doing God's work, however misguided and wrong-headed that conviction may be, are usually all too keen to state the connection clearly. They have an overwhelming desire to justify their actions by claiming them as God's will, and declaring that belief at any given opportunity.
This has not been Marlin's style. Never has he professed to be acting on God's behalf. Yes, there are at times religious overtones to his language, and any possible symbolism should of course be investigated rather than ignored, but I feel it is dangerous to jump to conclusions in this area. To dismiss Peter Marlin as nothing more than a religious nut is ultimately a risky supposition. Having pigeon-holed him as one specific type, it immediately becomes difficult to think outside of those boundaries, and thus every aspect of the case becomes coloured by that view. It is therefore of huge importance to keep an open mind at every stage.
Interestingly, there are those who doubt the interpretation of Marlin's icon at the most basic of levels. A significant number of people have suggested that it may not be a fish at all, but is in reality a corrupted infinity symbol. The theory goes that Marlin is making a point about death, and his own ability to end life, by drawing the mathematical symbol for infinity (a figure 8 on its side) with the end abruptly cut off.
I personally do not favour this theory, yet it demonstrates the importance of taking nothing for granted.
Marlin's choice of name is also the subject of some debate. I have always felt it reasonably safe to assume that 'Peter Marlin' is indeed a pseudonym, but whether this was merely a random choice, or holds some deeper significance, is a matter of opinion. Those who follow the religious angle have even gone so far as to suggest that the name 'Peter' may have been lifted from the Bible, in deference to St Peter, one of the twelve apostles, who, we are told, was a fisherman. Having selected the forename of a New Testament fisherman, it therefore follows that the name 'Marlin' was chosen to continue the theme, and the Christian symbol of a fish brought in to complete the identity.
I would not discount this theory - it has a certain appeal - yet as I stated at the beginning of this discussion, I feel we have to be wary of formulating elaborate explanations for aspects of the case which may, in fact, have no hidden meaning at all. That is not to dismiss these hypotheses, it is merely to sound a note of caution.
Before leaving this topic, it is worth mentioning one further detail which has attracted attention from those who subscribe to the religious hypothesis. As stated elsewhere on this website, I have always harboured certain doubts regarding the identity of 'John', the man I met in Christchurch Park, and have put forward the suggestion that he may have been Marlin himself. Taking this as fact for one moment (and I should make it clear that I have made no such judgement) it has been proposed that the man's instruction for me to call him John constitutes additional and unequivocal evidence of Marlin's link to Christianity, the suggestion being that just as John the Baptist paved the way for the arrival of Jesus Christ, so too the character of 'John' would point me towards an eventual meeting with Marlin.
If nothing else, this is an intriguing idea, and one worthy of consideration.
Marlin's use of initials in both his correspondence and as an integral part of his memorials, remains another bone of contention. Whilst some choose to place no further significance on this issue than that Marlin wished to employ some form of convenient identification, and settled, quite naturally, on his own initials, others prefer to see a deeper meaning here. It has even been proposed that as an abbreviation for 'Prime Minister', the letters 'PM' indicate some form of megalomaniacal tendency, or more simply, a desire to be in control. I am reluctant to subscribe to this view. My own opinion is that if Marlin's use of initials does indeed have a purpose, then it is simply as a convenient tool for use in the creation of his memorials. By employing the letters 'PM' together with an accompanying number, it conveys a statement of time, giving the markings a certain symmetry, whilst adding a further ambiguity to their interpretation, which, I can imagine, would be of great appeal to Marlin.
Ultimately, these discussions are mere supposition, yet whilst it remains all but impossible to analyse Marlin's use of symbolism with any degree of certainty, I feel sure that some symbolism does exist. The carefully crafted notes, complete with cryptic wordplay and coded warnings, suggest a depth to Marlin's thinking which should not be ignored. I even feel it possible that his choice of the brick building in Marsh Lane, with its ironic overtones of death and isolation, was a wholly deliberate one, displaying both a dark sense of humour and, perhaps, a level of intelligence we would be foolish to underestimate. Whatever the truth, these issues remain an important aspect of the case and should not be overlooked.
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