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Writer 1 Writer Customer English Literature 30 July 2012 Comparative Analysis of Narration Styles of Devil in a Blue Dress and

The Maltese Falcon 1. Introduction Crime fiction is one of the famous genres of literature which provides the readers with varying and versatile variety of mystery/detective novels. Since the time of the commencement of this genre of literature the writers have been employing various narration techniques such as first person narration, third person narration etc. to depict their pieces of detective fiction. Similarly Walter Mosley and Dashiell Hammett present the readers with two contrasting writing styles and each of their styles of narration provide the readers with a different flavor of mystery novel as the impact of each style of narration immensely differs from the other. 2. Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley Every work of fiction is an amalgamation of fiction and reality where reality acts as a source of inspiration for the writer to enter the realm of fiction and twist the harsh veracity of life into a less brutal and bearable depiction of this world. Devil in a Blue Dress is a novel about the tale of Easy Rawlins who is a black American and is a self-made detective by profession. After fighting in World War 2 the protagonist of the novel settles in segregated Los Angeles and he is shown to be an individual who is haunted by his memories of the trauma of the war although he is fiercely proud of his home and overall achievement in life. The novel portrays the

Writer 2 corrupt human existence and the degeneration that is gradually engulfing human beings and is turning them into robots that are channelized to attain monetary security, the more the better. The novel is narrated in first person narration which presents the readers with a myopic view of the whole situation i.e. the narrator Easy is the guide for the readers to understand the whole situation. This subjective account of the novel restrains the readers from forming their personal opinion as well because the narrator acts as mediator between the action taking place in the novel and the readers. For example at one point in the novel Easy says, [Albright] was a fine host too. His liquor was good and he was pleasant enough. He told me a few stories, the kind of tales that we called 'lies' back home in Texas (Mosley 18). This explanation about Albright might be true yet the readers do not have any evidence about this piece of information to be true or false because it is Easys personal point of view rather than an objective fact. However it cannot be denied that this form of narrative style establishes a close relation between the protagonist and the reader as it gives a chance for the audience to closely examine the protagonists actions and understand him well, as compared to rest of the characters who are introduced and described by the protagonist rather than an unbiased portrayal of every other character in the novel. The readers perception of Easys character can also be figuratively interpreted as the situation of majority of his fellow black men in real life i.e. his character is easily relatable to the hardships and problems that were faced by most of the American Blacks during and after World War 2 as it is stated in the novel, I always tried to speak proper English in my life, the kind of English they taught in school, but I found over the years that I could only truly express myself in the natural, 'uneducated' dialect of my upbringing (Mosley 10). It is such a common and heartfelt problem that has been faced by most of the Black Americans which not only makes

Writer 3 such descriptions autobiographical but also help in forming a close bonding between the reader and the protagonist as Mosley rather than depicting farfetched or intangible ideas focusses on the mundane daily life of a black man and the problems he faced while growing up as well as an adult. At another place in the text it is stated, A job in a factory is an awful lot like working on a plantation in the South. The bosses see all the workers like they're children and everyone knows how lazy children are. So Benny thought that hed teach me a little something about responsibility because he was the boss and I was a child (Mosley 69). In these lines Mosley implicitly criticizes the discrimination of the whites against black Americans. Through the character of Easy Rawlins, Mosley comments on the army's segregation and the hardships of returning to America after the war and facing the challenges in order to have a new beginning. As he himself says, My interest in Easy is that he's a way to look at how you make it in America if you're not educated if you have to work hard (Brady 85). For him Easy is a vehicle through whom to explore the reality of a hard, unprivileged, working-class life. Walter Mosley in this novel amalgamates history; as well as the stories of many of his black relatives, social discrimination, and fiction in order to implicitly project the actual suffering of the blacks as the victim as well as the victimizer. The author retains a balance between showing both sides of the coin i.e. where Benny targets Easy to teach him so-called responsibility or Daphne who commits murders yet at the same time he also talks about Mouse who is a Black American and is equally criminal minded as the other two as it is mentioned in the novel as well that he is trigger-happy (Mosley 70) to kill. Hence by providing the readers with such an account of the whole situation Mosleys intent is to highlight the overall decay and degeneration that is engulfing human race where every individual is driven with greed to attain more money than the rest. The importance of money can also be inferred from Joppys comment

Writer 4 about Mr. Albright as he says, Wherever they's a little money to be made Mr. Albright got his nose to the ground ... An' he don't care too much if that money got a little smudge or sumpin' on it neither (Mosley 44) which is also true for the rest of the characters as well. Therefore it is observed that although the novel is depicted in a subjective manner yet it enlightens the readers about many human realities as well bitter reality of this world although some of the fact are kept hidden from the reader such as an unbiased view of other characters yet it is one of the most interesting and eye catching mystery novel full of violence, suspense, mystery and drama. 3. The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett The Maltese Falcon is a detective story about Sam Spade and his quest to find a jewelencrusted statue of a falcon. This novel comprises of a tale of betrayal, lies, unrequited love, revenge, greed, violence and mystery where every character is his own savior which figuratively reflects at the isolated existence of human beings where personal benefit is only thing that is important. Sam Spades character projects an individual of integrity who is driven by the desire to fulfill his duty without giving in to emotions as in the novel he rejects Brigids love and is described in the text as, I'm a detective and expecting me to run criminals down and then let them go free is like asking a dog to catch a rabbit and let it go. No matter what I wanted to do now it would be absolutely impossible for me to let you go without having myself dragged to the gallows. I couldn't be sure you wouldn't decide to shoot a hole in me some day. I won't because all of me wants to wants to say to hell with the consequences and do it and because God damn you you counted on that with me the same as you counted on that with the others (Hammett 3).

Writer 5 Hence he is a character driven with the fire to find justice, to do his moral duty and avoid emotional entanglements because he believes in keeping his life, normal, simple and uncomplicated. The novel is written in third person narrative where the writer acts as a mediator between the reader and the text and in a way the readers read about the authors perspective yet they have the freedom of forming their own opinion unlike in first person narrative technique therefore it can be inferred that third person narrative technique allows the text to be multi-dimensional in terms of meaning. However it is observed that still Hammett does not present his readers with a complete explanation of the whole situation in fact he keeps some important facts vague not only to add an element of suspense and mystery but also to let the readers form their own conclusions. Some of such examples include the fact that Hammett in his objective style withholds the information that Spade was aware that Brigid had killed Archer. Another example is Spades desire and intention of handing in Archers murderer while he was having an affair with his wife. Although he expresses a strong professional ethic when he says that, When a man's partner is killed he's supposed to do something about it. It doesn't make any difference what you thought of him. He was your partner and you're supposed to do something about it (Hammett 78). His intention of avenging his death also has an element of self-interest as it is apparent from the lines, When one of your organization gets killed its bad business to let the killer get away with it. It's bad all around bad for that one organization, bad for every detective everywhere (Hammett 78). Hence Hammett leaves it for the readers to ponder about Spades actions and would have decided not hand in Brigid had there been a bigger monetary for him as he says, ...a lot more money would have been one more item on your side (Hammett 79). Although the readers are certain of one thing that his emotional attachment to her however strong that is

Writer 6 (Hammett 80) was not sufficient to overcome the risks that involved letting her go. Hence the third person narration technique adds an element of vagueness that persists throughout the course of the novel. Another shortcoming that is observed in Hammetts depiction of this novel is lack of psychological insight that is absent i.e. the readers do not get a chance to have an insight of the various personalities of the characters instead all of them are simply driven with the fire of greed that rules their body and soul. Although this drawback is not because of the narrative technique but because of the writers choice of plot development therefore it can be inferred that although this narrative technique allowed the writer to utilize the multi-dimensional quality of this style to his advantage to the fullest yet he failed to do so. 4. Conclusion Although the two novels belong to the same genre of literature yet there is a marked difference in the manner in which the two stories unfold. Although they might share similar thematic concerns yet the two different narrative techniques used by the respective authors sets them apart. Moreover both the first person narration in Mosleys novel and third person narration in Hammetts novel retain the uniqueness of the writing styles of the two writers regardless of some of the pros and cons of each style of writing.

Writer 7 Works Cited Brady, Owen Edward. A Conversation with Walter Mosley. Mississippi: The University Press of Mississippi, 2011. Print. Hammett, Dashiell. The Maltese Falcon. New York: Fontal Lobe Publishing, 2011. Print. Mosley, Walter. Devil in a Blue Dress. New York: W.W. Norton Company & Inc. Print