Crystal Rivas November 7, 2010
African American Fiction
Battle of Friendship
Walter Mosley’s Devil in a Blue Dress is a hard-boiled detective fiction following the protagonist Easy Rawlins as he works to solve the mystery that is laced around Daphne Money as he fights to find a balance between right and wrong. Throughout the story Easy struggles with morality and ethics as he tries to define himself, and fights to live by his own system of values. Easy’s struggles with himself is emphasized as he interacts with his best friend Mouse who lacks the amorality that Easy seems to be filled with. The relationship between Easy and Mouse is complex and filled with a mixture of fear, loyalty, danger, and acceptance. A friendship between two very different individuals can be filled with complexity, tension and overbearing emotions that may compromise the camaraderie, but the fear, security, loyalty, dependability, security, and love between the individuals keeps the friendship together in ways that nothing else could, such is the case between Easy and Mouse. On the one hand Easy is afraid of Mouse and knows that Mouse is a very dangerous man, but on the other hand Mouse is a loyal friend and one of the few people in which Easy feels truly safe with. Their clashing personalities are the very reason that I believe that they are friends.
Easy Rawlins is a very existential individual who struggles emotional ramifications after the death of a person by his hands. While on the contrary Mouse has a sociopathic personality that allows him to do as he wishes without fear of consequences, leading Easy to fear him. A man like Mouse with no conscious of consequences is a man that is capable of anything even killing his own friend, and Easy is well of aware of this. “But my best friend would have put a bullet in my head if he ever thought that I was unsure of him. He would have seen me as an enemy, killed me for my lack of faith”(93). Easy fears Mouse but considers him to be his best friend, but Mouse is the kind of best friend that Easy feels the need to run from.
Easy joined the army and left his home town to escape from Mouse , yet he continues to be friends with him.” I ran away from Mouse and Texas to go to the army and then later to L.A”(93). Mouse’s behavior is too much for Easy to handle. Some would ask the question, if Easy is so afraid of Mouse, why doesn’t he just end their friendship? Well, Easy fears Mouse so much that ending the friendship is not an option. Mouse is not the type of person that you can separate from as easily as snapping your fingers.
Mouse is a violent, unstable, sociopathic man, who has his own unique internal ethical framework. Mouse accepts himself for who he is, and doesn’t try to be anything he isn’t. He can be easily violent and dangerous but in a blink of an eye he can be profound, observant revealing to everyone his own intelligence and mind frame. This can be seen as he addresses Easy and Ruby’s internal racial issues with life and themselves. “‘That’s just like you Easy, You learn stuff and you be thinkin’ like white men be thinkin’. That what’s right fo’ them is right fo’ you. She look like she white and you think like you white. But brother you don’t know that you both poor niggers. And a nigger ain’t never gonna be happy less he accepts what he is’”(253). As educated as Easy is, Mouse seems to be ahead of him in his ability to rationalize a situation and accepting himself for who he is. Mouse lives his life the way he wants to and he won’t allow any one to tell him otherwise.
Easy and Mouse may be very different but they understand each other and know each others strengths and weaknesses. Mouse is well aware that Easy has a weakness for women. “‘Com’on Easy, this is the Mouse you talkin’ to. A woman look twice at you an’ you cain’t say no. I should know’”(199). Easy is also well aware that Mouse doesn’t really care about what his women do, but he does care about his money. “Mouse never worried about what his women did. But if I’d touched his money he’d have killed me straightaway”(199). Mouse’s weakness and strength is surround by money and Mouse is dangerous under both circumstances.
Easy fears Mouse’s violent sense of freedom but he admits that the only time he ever truly felt safe was when he was with Mouse. “The only time in my life that I had ever been completely free of fear was when I ran with Mouse”(94). Despite his own fear of Mouse Easy feels safest with him. Mouse is a very dangerous man and in spite of his mouse like features and small physique, everyone who knows anything about Mouse knows that he is dangerous and is nothing to take lightly. “He was so confident that there was no room for fear…He could put a knife in a man’s stomach and ten minutes later sit down to a plate of spaghetti”(94). Mouse is quick and doesn’t hesitate to go after the kill. The fact that Easy ran with Mouse was his automatic initiation into a world of respect, and safety from a world that scrambled a man over a hot pan and ate him for breakfast.
Easy Rawlins is a very conscience man who has an amoral subconscious and doesn’t seem be able to find peace within himself as he is forced into situations that disturb his fundamental ethics and pushes him into survival mode. However, with Mouse at his side Easy’s instinctual survival mode isn’t as active and his sense of security is increased. “I realized that I didn’t need Frank if I had Mouse on my side”(196). Easy needed Frank. He was desperate for Frank’s help even as Frank tried to kill him, but with Mouse’s sudden appearance and assistance suddenly Easy was much more in control. Mouse has a way of controlling and looking trouble straight in the eye as if it were nothing more than a new born puppy. No matter the conflict Mouse gives Easy a sense of security and new found strength.
Mouse is loyal, and despite Easy’s fear of him, whenever Easy needed him, he’d show up. “‘Easy my oldest partner, man. I shoot yo’ugly face off and ain’t nuthin’you gonna say t’stop me’”(196). Despite Mouse’s sociopathic behavior he has managed to be there when his friend needed him the most, and the same can be said of Easy towards Mouse. As much as Easy wants to run from Mouse he can’t help turning to him for help or protecting him even though he doesn’t agree with Mouse’s actions. “If you know a man is wrong, I mean, if you know he did somethin’ bad but you don’t turn him in to the law because he’s your friend, do you think that’s right?”(263). Easy doesn’t question whether he should or should not turn in his friend, he questions whether he is a bad person for not doing so. Easy knows that Mouse is a very dangerous man who is guilty of breaking many laws but he would never turn him into the enemy and in that decision Easy reveals his loyalty to Mouse.
Mouse is dependable . Whenever Easy needed him the most Mouse would come and rescue him. “‘I hit him, Easy!’ He was grinning down on me with all those golden teeth. ‘Mouse’, was all I could say. ‘Ain’t ya glad t’see me, Ease?’ I got up and took the little man in my arms. I hugged him like I would hug a woman” (246). During what seemed like a hopeless situation, Mouse managed to swoop in and save Easy drawing a conclusion to the entire gunfight and saving Easy although I’m pretty sure that Mouse was more interested in the money than actually saving his friend because that’s just the kind of person Mouse is.
Knowing all this about Mouse and acknowledging his own fear of Mouse, Easy continues to harbor a friendship with him. Look at the facts: Mouse is the only individual in his life whom he actually feels completely safe with. When Easy is scared and has no where to go and feels as though the world is closing in on him, he can’t
help but try and turn to the source of the last time he felt safe. Mouse is loyal and dependable and manages to always show up when Easy needs him the most. Easy’s love for Mouse along with fear keeps there friendship strong. Easy wouldn’t be Easy without Mouse. No matter how bad Mouse may be the fact that Mouse is the way he is, forces Easy to take a look at his own life and harbor existential thoughts. Easy reminds me of many different characters from African American works whom discuss the struggle of a double consciousness like that Todd from the short story called “Fly Away Home,” and the remarkable Manifesto by Langston Hughes entitled, “The Negro artist and Racial Mountain.” Mouse is well aware of Easy’s double consciousness and even acknowledges it, but he never tries to change him because that is what makes Easy - Easy. Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley is a very suspenseful story that breaths life into a range of unique and interesting characters intricately linked to each other allowing to see a manifestation of the different relationships that may exist.