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Critical Analysis of Walter Mosley

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Critical Analysis of Walter Mosley

"You have the right to remain silent. Anything you do or say may be used against you in a court of law." Although no one wants to hear these words, they are words that are known across the country and are uttered every day. Walter Mosley takes this concept of "by the book" law enforcement and jazzes it up in The Devil in a Blue Dress, a novel based on Ezekiel Rawlins, a character stuck between the struggle of enforcing the law or engaging into criminal activity. Rawlins is content with life itself, as long as the whit majority does not surround him. Even though Mosley's writing breaks color barriers, it also takes on racial motifs that emerged during post World War II Los Angles.

In Walter Mosley novels, the author tackles racism head on. As Mosley's main character Ezekiel Rawlins, or better known by his nickname of Easy, takes his journeys through Los Angles, he notices people only by color and not by character or other traits. Easy says, "It's not just that he was white but he wore an off-white linen suit and shirt with a Panama straw hat and bone shoes over flashing white silk socks" (Mosley 34), giving the impression that the man was not just white but he was real white. As Greg Tate states, "Mosley doesn't just raise the race card to thicken the plot; he beats you down with spades, then rubs your nose in ethnic stool" (Tate 1). Mosley's theme of racism relates to the times of post World War II, which is also the historical setting of Mosley's novel. During post World War II times, people segregated themselves from each other. Mosley realizes the segregation and decides to bring in a white male, named Witt Albright, to add color to a black bar. Even if Albright had good intentions with everyone, Easy sees this as, "space suppose to be insulated for the most part from the intrusions of the white world" (Mosley 47), such as Dewitt Albright, even if "the odor of rotted meat filled every corner of the building" (Mosley 3). Mosley shows that Easy believes the "rotted meat filled" (Mosley 4) bar should not even be filled with the presence of Albright, who turns out to be the boss of Easy throughout the novel. This introduces a new theme that Mosley sought to establish in the novel, the clichй of the black man working for the white man

Albright is a white man, who through Mosley's writing, gives the reader a view on a theme of white superiority in the work place. Albright meets Easy in the bar which Easy comments that Albrights grip was "like a snake coiling around my hand" (Mosley 18), which comments on Mosley relation of black male anxiety, in that black males want to be dominant over the white majority. Easy felt threatened by Albright's handshake. Mosley exploration in racism is a theme writers continue to explore today.

The impact of Mosley's literature on America is that his novels convey great literature in the mystery field to back up the historic writers as Rudolph Fisher and Chester Himes. Mosley exposes racism struggles between blacks and law enforcement in a creative way. Easy is accused of murder which a white man committed, but the police do not believe that a white man would kill a person, so they accuse Easy. Easy comments the accusations with, "I've played the game of cops and niggers before" (Mosley 138) realizing that in post world war II America, people are always going to look at the black man to be the ones who did the wrong in a situation.

The impact on the racial themes comes from Mosley's upbringing in post world war Los Angles, California, in the town of Watts. Mosley was born in the 1950's where he saw much racial discrimination and sought out the scenery that helps build the settings of his novels today. Mosley's father, Leroy Mosley, gave the basis to the main character of Ezekiel Rawlins. Through Leroy's domineer and life stories of traveling through "the freights" (Pelecanos 1), Mosley evolved that adventurous life style into Ezekiel. Mosley's father rented out houses and went through many of the life struggles. Because Mosley's father went through similar struggles as Easy, Mosley gives a feeling of realness to his novels and how the novels relate to the time of how black males fought to survive.

In Mosley's hometown of Watts, the post World War II times were hard for blacks. The Civil Rights movements were booming and animosity always gloomed in the horizon. The impact of Watts on Mosley was that Watts is the historic place of the 1965 Race Riots. "Riots lasted for six days, leaving 34 dead, over a thousand people injured, nearly 4,000 arrested, and hundreds of buildings destroyed, and it all started over a routine stop" (Ulin). Though the scene of destruction in the city was one of holocaust measures, it gave Mosley a scene of what racism and segregation will do to a body of people. Readers can see Mosley's history through his novels and how he tries to break all color barriers by showing different scenes of integration. Throughout The Devil in a Blue Dress Easy is in search of a "white" women by the name of Daphne Monet. Monet is actually a mulatto women but Easy perceives her as white by Albright's description. Though Mosley wants to break color barriers, Mosley also wants to break the clichй of "never judge a book by its cover" by putting Daphne in the novel. Easy finds out that his perception on people was wrong all along. Just as it is "almost a clichй for African-American males to appear in crime novels as powerful but benevolent sidekicks to tough-but-not-that-tough Caucasian heroes" (Nolan), Easy tries to show that he has his own mind aside from what his white boss of Mr. Albright says. As Albright's worker, Easy sees himself back into the clichй of the African American male under the powerful Caucasian hero. Easy try's to not conform to the system of being ran by another "color" (Mosley 57) as Easy says, but to make his own rules. Mosley shows Easy's independence by creating Easy to be an entrepreneur through his businesses and loyalty through friends.

As to show the theme of loyalty, that runs along with the under novel, Mosley writes that Easy calls on his friend Mouse. Mouse is a key element to the story by that he gives Easy an extra push toward knowing the true meaning of loyalty. Mouse shows loyalty in that he goes the extra mile and kills all the men that Easy has dealt with in order to say that the men deceived Easy in that they put him in a position to harm himself. Mosley confronts the loyalty issue at the end of the book, "If you know a man is wrong, I mean, if he did somethin' bad but you don't turn



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