In the 1950s racial and economical differences caused much conflict all over the world. In The Devil in a Blue Dress, Ezekiel Rawlins moves from Texas to LA to search for better opportunities only to find segregation almost as prominent as in plantations back at home. Easy gets mixed up in the dangerous part of LA by a man named DeWitt Albright who Easy initially worked for to pay the mortgage for his house. Easy is then motivated to solve a set of mysteries as the safety of his friends and of a woman named Daphne Monet was at stake.
In multiple instances, his differences caused him trouble but more prominently encouraged him to get through the case. Although race and class created prejudice and division throughout The Devil in a Blue Dress, Easy used the benefits of racial community and society’s clear cut vision of as a blue-collared, black property owner to give himself an significant advantage as a detective in his search for the truth. Prejudice and division were some of the more dominant reasons for the conflicts Ease was faced with during his search for the truth.
In Santa Monica Pier, Easy was met with troublesome white teenagers who were afraid that at night a black man would always attempt to pick up a white girl and violate her without consent. Not looking for trouble, he tried to prove himself innocent but failed until Albright came to teach the teens a lesson. The harsh discrimination also flowed through the government and its forces as two policemen named Mason and Miller locked Ezekiel up without explanation. The police represented the worst of black prejudice as they assumed Easy did something illegal or immoral since he’s black.
Even if he did no such thing, in the end it doesn’t matter as either Mason or Miller can kill him in full daylight and nobody would complain: “Means we can take your black ass out behind the station and put a bullet in your head” (Mosley, 70). Including teens and the police in the racist community were the higher middle class men and women like Todd Carter’s secretary and Mr. Baxter. Indirectly, they felt no obligation to let a random black man, who they assumed didn’t have anything important to say, speak to one of the richest white men in town.
The secretary and vicepresident fabricate their words with disingenuous politeness while constantly denying to inform Mr. Carter about Easy’s arrival. “I don’t know who you think you are, Rawlins. Important men don’t even barge in on Mr. Carter. You’re lucky that I took the time to see you. “(112). Although Easy did not like how blacks were treated in the 1950s LA, his race significantly boosted his ability as a detective. It is because of extreme prejudice that the blacks formed an intimate community and separated themselves from the whites. “Not a doubt in my mind.
But, you see, I can’t go in those places looking for her because I’m not the right persuasion”(18). This community creates a sense of understanding and, at times, trust with each other as every black faces the same oppression from society. Some blacks then open up more than normal about giving information and that connection was what Easy needed to smoothly obtain information about the mystery. His interaction with Coretta implies that she knows him enough to leak detailed information about one of her closest friends only for 10 dollars, even though she had her doubts initially.
In another case when Easy went around the deep and dangerous part of the black neighborhood asking for Frank Green, everyone he asked was suspicious and protective, like they were looking after each other’s backs. Ultimately the connection, almost similar to camaraderie, led Frank to personally visit Easy. This event would have been less likely to happen if Easy was white and Frank had to worry about the police or a trap set up to subdue him. It was because Ezekiel Rawlins was black and dared to ask for information in a community valuing secrecy that Frank Green showed no caution in his method of dealing with his pursuer.
Easy Rawlins was not only black, he was also a proud property owner and this status motivated him to not act upon his instincts as he would in Texas. Easy was proud that he had a house, car and job that brought him at least a little bit of respect from both blacks and whites and differentiated him from many others in his community. He wanted to be treated like any other middle class white man would. This stubbornness was exactly why Easy did not heed his “flight” instincts and advices from Odell to leave the city before anything dangerous happens.
The risk of losing his property was not worth taking compared to the grim future ahead. Although Easy was a proud owner of a house and a car and worked a lower middle job, Todd Carter put all of that to shame. “Mr. Todd Carter was so rich that he didn’t even consider me in human terms. He could tell me anything. could have been a prized dog that he knelt to and hugged when he felt low” (118). Even though Easy was uncomfortable by this treatment, Todd’s incautious attitude was essential in obtaining the necessary information about Daphne to solve the mystery.
However, the most advantageous part of Easy being a bluecollared worker is that he is able to control people with money, not because he has a lot but he knows what everyone else is going through. Before he was a property owner, he used to leech off of friends for meals and women for their beds. Now that he is a property owner with something to protect, he understands that sometimes people just want to get some money more than anything else,” I found that I needed more than just friendship. Mr. Albright wasn’t a friend but he had what I needed” (20).
Initially, Easy had money as the highest priority like many others as was trying to find stability by earning enough to pay his mortgage but as he gradually immersed himself in the mystery, he felt the thrill of adventure that inspired him to become a private investigator at the end of the novel. However, nobody else is aware of the fact that he is only working for himself. As Easy unravels the secrets of the consecutive murders, he was able to manipulate the people related to the mystery to his will by convincing them of either hat he was only in the situation for money or that they will gain a lot of money if they follow what he says. Easy’s method of persuasion is incredibly effective as the higher class men lower their guard, enabling him to have access to private information or permission to do whatever he wants. The lower class men, on the other hand, are entranced by the incredible sum that they will receive that they are unable to think or act logically. Mouse, Easy’s friend from Texas, is a prime example of losing control when a lot of money is involved. “I DIDN’T TELL Mouse everything.
I didn’t tell him about the money Daphne stole or the rich white man’s name: or that I knew his name. Mouse probably meant to keep his word to me; he could keep from killing if he tried. But if he got a whiff of that thirty thousand dollars I knew that nothing would hold him back. He would have killed me for that much money” (152-153). Easy’s talent in manipulating those around him according to their wants and needs originated from his newfound status as a lower middle class property owner needing to pay his mortgage and it was crucial in his success at solving the mystery.
Easy was such a proficient detective because he incorporated his status as an ordinary young black man and a blue-collared property owner. After being unwillingly thrown into a series of criminal events he faced multiple conflicts mainly because of his race but as he actively searched for the truth, it was beneficial in obtaining information. He was intelligent to use his differences and similarities of class to manipulate others in convincing them to work for his benefit.
While extreme prejudice and stereotypes existed in the 1950s time period, Easy didn’t condemn himself for being black like Daphne but instead actively searched for respect from everyone, white or black. Unlike most who simply accepted their lifestyle defined by their economic and racial attributes, Easy broke through the clean cut barriers set up by society. For this reason, Ezekiel Rawlins, from The Devil in the Blue Dress is an unorthodox, unprofessional detective that the readers can love and identify with.