last updated: 22 January 2019 (approximate reading time: 2 minutes; 340 words)
Devil in a Blue Dress was the first novel by Walter Mosley. Set in 1948, it features Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins, an African American World War II veteran who has just lost his job and needs money to pay his mortgage.
There are five questions that I routinely ask to help me get to the heart of any story that I’m writing. These same questions can be asked to analyze other works.
As an aside, there are differences between the film and the book. The film more tightly focuses some of the motivations making this analysis more straightforward.
question one: Who is the Protagonist?
Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins.
question two: What Does Rawlins Want?
To find Daphne Monet.
Rawlins wants to find Monet twice. Initially he is asked by Dewitt Albright, a white private investigator, to find the woman. This initial task is the inciting incident that draws Rawlins into the world of the story.
Having found and subsequently lost the woman, Rawlins is hired to again track her down by Todd Carter, her former fiancé (who in the film version had been running to be mayor).
question three: What is Keeping Rawlins From Getting What He Wants?
Monet is in hiding. Several parties are seeking her in order to (variously) blackmail Carter and retrieve material Monet is in turn distributing in order to try to win back Carter.
In the book, Monet is being sought because she has stolen money (from Carter). Carter wants the money back; others want to steal that money from Monet.
question four: What Must Rawlins Sacrifice to Get What He Wants?
First, Rawlins must lie to his friends, hiding his motives for seeking Monet. Later he shares some element of the blame for the death of his friend Joppy.
question five: What is At Stake?
The police intend to set up Rawlins for the murder of his friend Coretta James and Richard McGee, a blackmailer.
By finding Monet, Rawlins is able to call on Carter to use his influence to straighten out matters with the police.