Hard-boiled race: the examination of racialized space and identity within Walter Mosley's Devil in a Blue Dress

Date
2005-01-01
Authors
Wiser, Zachary
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Abstract

Walter Mosley is primarily known for his Easy Rawlins series, namely the first book of the series, Devil in a Blue Dress, which is a hard-boiled detective novel. While Walter Mosley performs the functions of the hard-boiled genre in a way that would make Raymond Chandler proud, Mosley is also providing a level of social commentary that was rarely, if ever, accessible to traditional hard-boiled writers. The primary way in which Mosley expands the realm of critical commentary within the hard-boiled genre is by racializing the landscape; however, while bringing race into the hard-boiled genre is the thematic goal of Devil in a Blue Dress, Mosley does much more than simply make the characters black. Through following the specific mores of the hard-boiled genre, and utilizing the issue of racial identification through setting, character duality and racial transgression, Mosley is able to create a commentary on the hypocrisy of a social structure that identifies all inhabitants based upon racial markers and the injustices that result from such a system. Ultimately, by tackling the most deeply embedded cultural issue in America (race), Walter Mosley is able to fulfill the goal of hard-boiled detective fiction in a way that the forerunners of the tradition could never have imagined.

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English, English literature, Literature
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