Oppressive Faces of Whiteness in Walter Mosley’s Devil in a Blue Dress


  • Klara Szmańko Opole University




Walter Mosley, Devil in a Blue Dress, whiteness, white oppression, white imagery


Walter Mosley’s Devil in a Blue Dress contributes significantly to the literary debate on the definition of whiteness. The socio-historical construction of whiteness emerging from the novel is amplified by white imagery dovetailing with the claims made about white people directly. For the African American first person narrator, Easy Rawlins, living in post-World War II Los Angeles, whiteness mostly spells terror. The oppressive faces of whiteness consist in the following trajectories: property relations, economic exploitation, labour relations, the legal system, different miens of oppressive white masculinity denigrating blackness, spatial dynamics of post-World War II Los Angeles and the white apparatus of power that the narrator needs to confront throughout the novel. White imagery carried to the extreme magnifies the terrorizing aspect of whiteness in the narrative. Like many authors of colour, Mosley associates whiteness with death. Whiteness inundates Easy Rawlins from all sides, entailing insincerity, dishonesty, interestedness and hypocrisy.


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Author Biography

Klara Szmańko, Opole University

Klara Szmańko is Associate Professor at the Department of English, University of Opole. She specializes in American ethnic literature, in particular African American and Asian American literature. The recurring tropes of her publications are whiteness, invisibility, visibility, visual dynamics, power dynamics, transformational identity politics, multiculturalism, representation of space, mimicry, nationalism and gender relations. She is also the author of two monographs published in the United States: Invisibility in African American and Asian American Literature: A Comparative Study (2008) and Visions of Whiteness in Selected Works of Asian American Literature (2015). Klara Szmańko did her MA (2002), as well as PhD (2005) at the University of Wrocław, and her habilitation at the University of Łódź in 2016.


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How to Cite

Szmańko, K. (2018). Oppressive Faces of Whiteness in Walter Mosley’s Devil in a Blue Dress. Text Matters, (8), 258-277. https://doi.org/10.1515/texmat-2018-0016