Today i studied a book i actually loved and wasn’t ruined for me by critical analysis and interpretation. The Devil in the Blue Dress by Walter Mosley is part of a series which tells the story of Easy Rawlins, an African American from 1930s to 1980s. This book in particular is set in downtown L.A in 1948 and Easy is allowed entry into the white mans city by solving the mystery of Daphne Monet and finding her for Albright, a white and dangerous male. Everything about Albright is white, from his race to his clothes to his persona. White is alienated and perceived as strange which is an incredibly interesting reversal of roles within the American detective novel. Interestingly the narrative is completely in the first person, which differentiates from works such as Auster’s New York Trilogy (well,the majority of it) and the narrative progresses through almostentirely dialogue rather then in narration. It is of a definite political agenda and in my personal opinion, Mosely captures and Probelematizes the genre and its ideology successfully in a captivating novel.
Walter Mosely himself
This book brings up many themes. Race is an obvious one, as it places the detective genre, predominantly a white masculine genre into the hands of the African American from their own perspective. From the opening to this book the reader immediately recognises that this is a problematic racial society. It problematizes the genre, and from a post modern perspective, the breakdown of certainty can be considered to make way for new identity and the re-working of old identity, and Mosely does this strategically. Mosely is also extremely interested in racial mixing in American locale and in inter racial relationships. One of the twists at the end of the novel is that Daphene Monet, originally from New Orleans but impersonates a French woman, is of mixed race, and fools both the white and black culture in her society. She embodies the link between gender and race. Throughout the narrative colour is also an obvious and complex theme, and Daphene is constantly associated with thecolour brown, although there are countless references of brightness and whiteness for us to reach this analysis. Furthermore, Mosely uses a colour in each of the titles of his works, creating and interesting theme with colour and what it can interpret.
easy rawlins, our hero
The city is not absent within this text but is in fact intricately used to display ownership and territory. La is two cities. It contains the African American city in the dominating white man’s city. There is also an interesting theme of ownership, relating with master-slave relationships from the early nineteenth century. Albright tells Easy at one point of the novel. “Once you have taken my money, you belong to me” which also portrays the power of consumerism and the system of capitalism America grounded itself upon. Easy Rawlins takes much pride in his home, and emphasises greatly that it is his, under his possession and ownership. He loves it as if he would love a woman, and the theme of homeland which is absent in works such as again, Auster’s New York Trilogy, powerfully takes hold of the novel and shows how America has become the homeland to those not always of pure heritage. In fact, there are very few characters in this novel that can be considered pure white American, and mixed racial identity appears to be the dominating identity that America has yet to accept and pursue.
Yet one of the key questions is if Easy Rawlins really is a detective. Although this novel is flooded with murder, violence and gang warfare is this really a detective genre. Somethign to pursue!
I have just touched in ten minutes ona few things that i learnt from this book and could go on in so much more detail. But i’ll save that for an essay. But a definite must read to everyone i think,well if your into the detective genre and the politics of African American literature.
Have a great weekend! mine will be working, working and oh yeh … working