The novel titled “Devil in a Blue Dress” is the work of Walter Moseley as an adaptation of the 1940’s detective series that features a prominent post-World War hero known by the name of Rawlins. As readers label the novel as hard-boiled, it is interesting to see how the novel came to be called in such term. Devil in a Blue Dress is difficult to understand because of its unusual conventions and narratives. The approach to writing in the novel encompasses on repetitive themes and tropes.
The Different Tropes
One of the many tropes in evident in Mosley’s novel is the big change in focal point in a detective narrative from the design of the story to the character. The representation on the black characters, particularly in a detective story depicts the impact of racial discrimination and social divergence on them. This big change on focal point from the design of the story to the characters themselves is a noteworthy point in the classic American detective narrative.
African-American writers like Mosley created their detectives to be black, and they made their skin color and positive feature in their accomplishment in their investigation. Moreover, the African-American detective’s uniqueness is directly linked to his people. The black detective is characteristically aware of his position in the social order as a person of color, and he shares his sense of brotherhood and familial ties that cannot be found in other mainstream detective stories especially the ones done by non-African American writers. Mosley heavily drew out his and his father’s experiences in creating his characters and thus, his character Rawlins has somewhat an articulated point-of-view in the injustice that he people of color are being subjected that comes out in the novel.
Another prevalent trope in the novel is seemingly twofold realization of the black characters. The black character commonly comprehends the distinctions between their original traditions and the traditions of the people that they belong to. This poses a struggle in the character’s psyche as they try to live as a person of color with their own mores and traditions and at the same time an American national who is also accepted and assimilated the white tradition. They try to encourage themselves that they should settle for just being themselves but they could also have the white perspective of the white Americans. They start to mimic the attitude of the whites and hope that this will allow them to be finally accepted into society.
The expression of the black culture is conveyed through its vernacular, and that is one of the other tropes commonly found, especially in Mosley’s novel. The utilization of black language distinguishes a black detective story from the other kinds of detective narrative. In the book, Rawlins prefers to speak proper English, particularly whenever he talks to white people, in an effort to tell them subtlety that he is a sophisticated man and is able to converse in the English that is taught in schools. But unfortunately, he feels that he doesn’t get to express his true self and only feels otherwise when he speaks in black language. It is important to also note that in the book, the people of color in the book talk to one another in their own black dialect, and most importantly, Rawlin’s core self is represented by what he calls “his voice”, who only talks to him in the same black dialect to push him to act as a noble person who must never surrender and never shed a tear or plead.
The religious fervor of the African American is also depicted in the book, showing that this also presents another view of African Americans on the world. This depiction shows not a single thing about their religion and its connection to the everyday life of a typical black person.
The black person does not trust the white person and same with their god. In the book, Rawlins advocates that his view of faith is not the solution that his people are facing, especially in the world they live where prejudice, dearth, and dishonesty exist. Rawlins’ experience as a black person trained him that wealth is supreme in which an African American can barely obtain under the current situation. Mosley further showed in the novel not just the struggle of African Americans but also the race disagreement in Europe and America for the other races like the Jews.
In the end, Mosley’s hard-boiled detective story has developed in to more pragmatic genre that talks about the concerns related to everyday lives. Mosley was a big contributor to this movement. The novel emphasized race conflict and how they impact people’s behaviors in a negative way. It showed that problems like this leads to more discrimination, which amplifies criminal misdemeanors, ergo, Mosley’s novel represents criminal misdemeanors as an outcome of social issues.