Detective fiction is known to focus on the figure of the detective; however, supporting roles are also of extreme importance for readers. Such characters may have several functions, including plot advancement, the introduction of subplots, developing themes, heightening the conflict, and development of the main character. In Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley Mouse is an excellent example of a supporting role that serves all the functions listed above. The present paper focuses on analyzing how Mosley uses Mouse to develop the themes of animal symbolism and violence. In the novel, Mouse represents a small part of Easy’s personality that is ready to use animal instincts and brute force to arrive at his goal.
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Description of the Character
Raymond Alexander is Easy’s dangerous old friend from Houston, who is more commonly known as Mouse due to being physically small. However, his name is more an irony, because unlike his namesake his far from being shy and quiet. Accessible claimed that “just thinking about Mouse set [his] teeth on edge” (Mosley 3). At the same time, Mouse acts like an animal because he is easy to react and kill without a second thought.
He is known to be able to turn his back even on his best friends, which is a characteristic of a beast without the idea of moral responsibility. He does not represent any signs of feelings of remorse or compassion – he kills cold-bloodedly. However, they may be another reason why Mosley chooses to name one of the most mysterious characters after a small mammal.
The mouse is a small beast-like part of Easy’s character that tries to hind in holes of his memory. Just like Mouse, Easy is capable of being violent to protect himself and achieve his goal. However, the protagonist tries to forget about this side of his character because he wants to fit in a society where there is no place for violence. Easy is a proud homeowner who tries to live an everyday life. However, society rejects him, as he is fired from his job because of racial prejudice. He tries to stay away from bloodshed; however, when Easy feels that his life is in danger, he calls Mouse to come in and save him. This call for help may be treated as a cry out for his inner animal, which he tried to hide from society.
The mouse is a symbol of violence to achieve good since his methods are brutal, but he follows a noble cause. Later in the novel, Easy starts to use Mouse’s ways to get what he needed. In Dupree’s hiding place, when both Mouse and Dupree pass out drunk, Easy steals one of Mouse’s guns to track down Daphne. This action means that Easy decides to use Mouse’s tools, accepting his methods. Therefore, a reader can see how Easy’s relationships with Mouse progress from fear to acceptance. Similarly, Easy starts to recognize physical violence as an appropriate method for solving the case.
The mouse is a strong character that helps Mosley to develop the main character and central themes. The mouse is a small animal that Easy is trying to forget about but learns to accept in the end. Sometimes, the human world reminds relationships between predators and their prey, and only an animal can survive in such a world. However, when everything is settled down, the animal should be able to hide, not to scare off civilized human beings.
Mosley, Walter. Devil in a Blue Dress. Pocket, 1995.
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