How Mosley’s Character Applies
Easy Rawlins, the protagonist of Walter Mosley’s novel, “Devil in a Blue Dress” overcomes the limitation of being a black man in 1940s America by refusing to identify with any of the other characters. He refuses to identify with black, male characters, like Dupree. They work in the same place but when Easy decides that unlike Dupree he will have respect from their boss he finds the autonomy of risking his life in the search for Daphne/Ruby to be imminently preferable. On some level, perhaps a subconscious one, Easy is aware of this as he asks his boss Mr.
Benito ‘Benny’ Giacomo, “so what am I doin’ [back] here (91)? ” Supposedly, Benny fired Easy because he would not work extra hours but as Easy determines, upon returning to ask for his job, Benny’s treatment of him manifests from some deeper motivation. “He needed all his children to kneel down and let him be the boss. He wasn’t a businessman, he was a plantation boss; a slaver (92). And Easy does not leave the office until Benny calls him Mr. Rawlins as opposed to the more familiar and less respectful “Easy.
” When he leaves the place of his former employment he “look[s] around for Dupree but he was nowhere to be seen, not even at his station (93). Not seeing him is symbolic of Easy’ inability to identify with him any longer. However, it is not just Dupree he finds himself unable to identify with. Despite having fought in World War II and being forced to kill innumerable times, Easy does not see himself as a cold-blooded killer. And this is exactly what he thinks of his friend Mouse, someone with whom he has the most history.
He sees him as a man who kills indiscriminately and without conscience, anyone he thinks has wronged him. It is clear by the end of the novel that Easy’ friend Joppy, whom he almost reveres as a father figure, also lacks conscience, betraying him for money and Daphne/Ruby while murdering Frank Green, Howard Green and Coretta James in a what Easy and other characters find a shockingly, brutal manner. He also does not identify with any of the other significant black, male characters, saying of Junior, a persistent bully from his adolescence, “He disgusted me.
He was brave enough to take on a smaller man, he was brave enough to stab and unarmed drunk, but Junior couldn’t stand up to answer for his crimes (225). Even though I had the information that would prove him guilty he didn’t worry because I was his inferior in combat (222). ” The only black, male character that Easy does not completely differentiate himself from is Odell whom he describes as “a quiet man and a religious man…[and] though he was…God-fearing…he’d find his way down to John’s…[to] soak up all the excitement so he could carry it around with him on his job as a janitor.
” Until his sojourn as a volunteer soldier in WWII, Easy had worked in such menial occupations, avoiding conflict, but ultimately Odell is twenty years or more the senior of Easy and all his other friends. By identifying himself as somewhere on the spectrum of morality and behavior between the quite, religious Janitor and all the other black males who prove toughs and criminals, Easy strives to be simply, human. He continues to subvert the power dynamic at work in 1940s America by also refusing to identify with any of the white male characters.
That is to say that he does not admire or wish to imitate them, save to the extent that he will not be denied respect. De Witt Albright, he calls a cold-blooded killer, a sociopath whose only friends are also business associates, fellow criminals. Mr. Carter is a sad, old man, almost child-like in his simple take on things. He thinks that he can have anything he wants for the right price. And Easy also calls him the worst kind of racist because he sees Easy as so far beneath him that he tells him secrets almost as a man would confess troubles to some pet, not another man.
Mr. Teran, a former mayoral candidate, is a pedophile, a molester of young boys. Richard, Daphne/Ruby’s ex-boyfriend, whom she left for Mr. Carter, is a procurer of young boys for men like Mr. Teran. Mouse, Easy’ friend, tells him “you be thinkin’ like white me be thinkin’. You be thinkin’ that what’s right fo’ them is right fo’ you (275). ” Essentially, Easy does not think as his fellow black characters do but arguably his sole purpose in thinking as he does is a basic human desire, not just a white man’s, in wanting respect and equality.
He ultimately empowers himself by refusing to accept any identity restrictions. There is of course the identity that others would assign him but it must compete with his ever growing, wiser malleability. He is not a black man wishing to be white. While both he and Daphne/Ruby may think more like the white characters around them than the black, Easy ultimately cannot identify with Ruby, a mulatto, because she unlike him also has the appearance of being white with her light brown hair that looks blond and her changeable green or blue eyes.
And as Mouse reminds him, Ruby’s greatest contretemps with life relates to the fact that “a nigger ain’t never gonna be happy ‘less he accept what he is. ” In other words, denying his racial identity will not empower Easy, nor will differentiating himself from others of his race make him somehow more human, as white characters in the novel see themselves, but not blacks. In Walter Mosley’s novel “Devil in a Blue Dress” the protagonist Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins lives a life uncommon for a black man in 1940s America. He manages to subvert the power dynamic at work in the novel despite being black, impoverished and relatively powerless.
He does so by refusing to identify with the other characters in the novel and in doing so overcomes their limitations with regard to character development. Of all the characters in the novel, Easy Rawlins is ultimately the most human, not behaving as a black, poor or ineffective man should, adapting all the time to the best possibilities for survival in his environment. His unwillingness to conform is almost Darwinian in its effectiveness. Works Cited Mosley, Walter. Devil in a Blue Dress: An Easy Rawlins Mystery. Thorndike Press: Thorndike, Maine. 1993.Sample Essay of Custom-Writing