The Usual Suspects

Meanings of “The Usual Suspects”

The phrase “the usual suspects” refers to the things, or people that are usually responsible, or are involved in a particular action, or activity. In other words, the expression is used to talk about people that are expected to be involved in a crime or an illegal activityHowever, they may not be guilty unless proven.

Origin of “The Usual Suspects”

The phrase “the usual suspects” was first used in the American movie Casablanca released in 1942. However, its first printed usage was sighted in the report published in January 1932, in the New Jersey-based newspaper, The Daily News. The phrase was used in the context mentioned, above discussing the death of a gang member, Johnny D’Agostino, and how the detectives considered all the usual aspects to reach better conclusions. At first, this expression was used by the officials to suspect a crime; however, with time the phrase was used in more general terms and other than police investigations of crime.

Examples in Literature

Example #1

The Usual Suspects by Patti Masterman

what moves outside of time-
what moves in a clear sky,
that makes us move?

what’s time to a beating heart,
what’s time to those who cry-
that moves us

what moves a heart;
what cries for lost time,
that moves among us-

as always,
there is only the wind,
in answer.

This short poem attempts to answer several uncertainties that seem the primary cause of the speaker’s discontent. She wonders how the system of the universe moves in order. To satisfy her quest, she catalogs various questions regarding human sufferings, time, and life in general. Surprisingly, she concludes that wind stands as the binding force. Due to this ultimate force, we see a connection in the universe. It is always wind that moves around us and makes us move in this universe. Though it seems an unusual discussion, yet it marks the center of our life. The phrase is used as a metaphor for life in the title of the poem.

Example #2

The Usual Suspects by William Robbins

“Who can hide the heart’s fingerprints
or the light of a mind
standing in the shadows?

Flames of love and charity radiant
can’t be veiled,
being guilty is there wanted poster
revealing the spirit’s portrait,
a cast of genuine inner reflection,
always a suspect
in the deeds left
upon another’s life
that healed and inspired.”

In these stanzas, the speaker opens the point with a quizzical appearance implying nobody can hide the emotions of a person when he is not happy at heart. In fact, love and charity work wonders in the world when every spirit is made to radiate which shows inner satisfaction. Therefore, “the usual suspects” are love and charity given in the second stanza. The phrase shows its metaphorical representation through these two passions.

Example #3

The Usual Suspects by Maurice Broaddus

Maurice Broaddus, in this children’s fiction, features a boy accused of a crime he has not committed. The protagonist, Thelonius Mitchell, is a special child kept separate from the other normal students. His indifferent behavior and strange activities were enough to make everyone look at him with a constant side-eye. One day, a gun was found near the school, and as always Thelonius and his friends were accused of this strange happening. Depressed at this false accusation, he decided to solve the mystery and made a difference in everyone’s eye. Although the path he chose was full of uncertainties, yet he tried to fight for the truth. The phrase is used as an extended metaphor throughout the text.

Example in Sentences

Example #1: “Like his father, the sudden decline in her health is caused by the usual suspects: tensions, stress, poor diet and alcoholism.”

Example#2: “To enjoy the fruits of a healthy life, Jane preferred to avoid the usual suspects such as; fried and junk food, desserts, soft drinks, and alcohol.”

Example #3: “Last month, Jason was arrested for burglary. He knew he was the usual suspect but the junior officer found the actual culprit and Jason was set free.”

Example #4: “To see the bigger picture of the declining economy, the government decided to consider all the usual suspects such as inflation, corruption, black-marketing, and hoarding.”

Example #5: “Keeping in mind yesterday’s mess, the teacher decides to keep an eye on the usual suspects. However, to her surprise, the absentees started taking sessions by storm.”