Devil in a Blue Dress

Devil in a Blue Dress Summary and Analysis of Chapters 7-8


Chapter 7

When Easy returns home to his house on 116th street, it is already morning. He finds a blue envelope scented with perfume and written in a woman's handwriting. It is from Houston and has his full name, "Mr. Ezekiel Rawlins." Both details grab Easy's attention. Before he begins reading the letter, Easy notices that a jay is sitting on his neighbor's fence, taunting a ferocious dog below. The jay is "mesmerized" by the dangerous canine. The letter is from Mouse. He explains that Sophie gave him Easy's address after she returned to Houston from Los Angeles because it was "too much" for her. Mouse says that he thinks "maybe too much is just right for [him]." Mouse tells Easy that his wife, EttaMae, threw him out after he came home so drunk one night that he forgot to shower. In spite of his troubles, Mouse is proud of his beautiful son, LaMarque. He asks Easy when is a good time to visit him. Mouse ends the letter by saying: "I got Lucinda writing this letter for me and I told her that if she don't write down every word like I say then I'm a beat her butt down Avenue B so hold onto it, alright?"

Easy says that as he read the letter's first words, he instinctively went to his closet as though to pack or hide. Easy recalls that he and Mouse were the best of friends until his wedding day neared. Late one night, Mouse made Easy accompany him to a small town called Pariah where he shot his stepfather, and a man named Clifton also died in the struggle.

Easy assures us that he was not involved in Mouse's murders but he feels guilty about having taken a share of blood money from Mouse; he knew, however, that the unremorseful and touchy Mouse would kill him if he refused it. In fact, Easy's fear of Mouse is part of what drove him to join the army and eventually settle far away, in Los Angeles. Easy is no stranger to fear. He was part of the D-Day operation in Normandy during World War II and killed many German soldiers in hand-to-hand combat. Easy says the only time he felt invincible was when he was with Mouse. Yet he does not want to help his old friend; he prefers a more conventional, non-violent life. As he puts it: "I had dreams that didn't have me running in the streets anymore; I was a man of property and I wanted to leave my wild days behind."

Easy settles down by his front window with a bottle of vodka. He muses on the South. There one can see all one's friends sitting by one's front window. In Los Angeles, people are too busy to take a walk, much less stop to chat with neighbors. After finishing the bottle of vodka, Easy falls asleep. A call from Mr. Albright awakens him. Mr. Albright pressures Easy into meeting him at the Santa Monica pier.

Chapter 8

Easy is nervous about meeting Mr. Albright in the white community of Santa Monica. He had never spent time there except to work at Champion. Easy recalls: "I never loitered anywhere except among my own people, in my own neighborhood." Easy's eagerness to get paid and someday own more property keeps him going. He arrives at the designated meeting place, a merry-go-round, and waits nearby at the railing above the beach. Easy wants to avoid human contact, but a chubby, Jewish girl named Barbara Moskowitz wanders away from her crowd to talk to him. Easy tries to ignore her, but she is talkative and lonely. She is tagging along with her sister's friends, because their parents made her. But Barbara's sister just wants to smoke and neck with her boyfriend, Herman. Suddenly Herman and some other boys confront Easy, calling him "nigger" and degrading him. Easy knows that he could kill them with his bare hands, but ignores them. Barbara tries to defend him to no avail. Just then, Mr. Albright arrives and hold the largest boy, whom Easy calls "the footballer," at gunpoint. He threatens to kill him and all his friends, and degrades him by telling him to suck Easy's penis. After holding him in agony for a few minutes Mr. Albright pistol-whips the boy and lets all the teenagers go. He tells them not to inform the police on pain of death.

Easy walks Mr. Albright to his white Cadillac. Easy is angry at him for humiliating the footballer, because he knows that Mr. Albright would do the same or worse to Easy. But he resolves not to let Mr. Albright humiliate him. He tells Mr. Albright that he will give him the information about Daphne as long as he promises that no one will be hurt as a result. Mr. Albright says that his client's intentions with Daphne are innocent, but that he cannot guarantee that no harm will come to people. Easy is satisfied that Mr. Albright does not want to hurt Daphne, so he gives him the information. He tells Mr. Albright that Daphne was last seen with Frank Green at a bar called the Playroom. He explains that Frank is a gangster and tells Mr. Albright where he lives. Mr. Albright is fascinated by the fact that Frank Green is quick to kill with his knife. He asks Easy to recall if, when he once saw Frank cut a man, he hesitated. Easy cannot give him a definite answer, but Mr. Albright is quietly delighted at the thought of facing Frank Green. He gives Easy another hundred dollars and a card with an address where he can find another job. Easy lies and tells Mr. Albright that he does not have Daphne's picture because he wants to keep it for himself. Mr. Albright drives Easy back to his car as they listen to big band music. As he shakes Easy's hand goodbye, Mr. Albright asks him why he did not defend himself against the footballer and his friends. Easy says, "I don't kill children." At that Mr. Albright laughs.


In Chapter 7, Mosley uses animal symbolism to convey Easy's feeling of being in a delicate balance between success and death. Just before he opens the letter from Mouse, Easy notices a jay taunting a ferocious neighborhood dog outside his window. He describes: "There was a jay looking down from the fence at the evil dog in the yard behind mine. The mongrel was growling and jumping at the bird. Every time he slammed his body against the wire fence the jay started as if he were about to fly off, but he didn't He just kept staring down into those deadly jaws, mesmerized by the spectacle there." In this metaphor, the jay represents Easy and the dog represents Mr. Albright, Frank Green, Junior, and everyone else who poses a threat to him.

Like the jay, Easy is perched above a dangerous reality. He is safe, but one false step and he could end up dead. But Easy flirts with danger, as the jay does. He likes to play with Mr. Albright and show his bravery because danger fascinates him. The jay can easily fly off the fence, but his fascination with the dog keeps him there. Easy has several opportunities to get out of his situation, but exhilaration and fascination hold him near the danger.

Mosley creates another nature-based metaphor in Chapter 8, when Easy drives along the beach with Mr. Albright. Easy remembers: "There were a few electric lights from the coast, and just a sliver of moon, but the sea glittered with a million tiny glints. It looked like every shiny fish in the sea had come to the surface to mimic the stars that flickered in the sky. There was light everywhere and there was darkness everywhere too." The seascape is a metaphor for Easy's situation. He is on the verge of attaining a beautiful independence for himself, which Mosley represents in the brightness of the seascape. The "sliver of moon" and the way the water glints remind Easy of the success and joy to which he aspires. Yet despite the brightness and beauty he sees, Easy is reminded that "there [is] darkness everywhere too." Easy's happiness is inextricably tied to his involvement with "darkness," with the violence and dishonesty he encounters while trying to earn the money to cultivate his dream life. Easy perches between lightness and darkness, joy and death, like the jay on the fence. He tries to focus on the "million little glints" of success he sees despite the danger around him, the "sliver" of joy he must endure the darkness to find.

In these chapters, Mosley gives us tantalizing hints about Mouse. Until now, we have only heard reference to Mouse when Mr. Albright reminds Easy of him. Mouse's name is simultaneously fitting and ironic. In that a mouse is a small animal, the name fits the character. First of all, Mouse is a small person physically. But he is also a creature of instinct, like a wild animal. As Easy describes, Mouse "... Could put a knife in a man's stomach and ten minutes later sit down to a plate of spaghetti." In other words, Mouse is totally unremorseful. Like an animal, he fights and kils to defend himself or to get what he wants, and then moves on. While Easy is wracked with guilt for his minor involvement in the Pariah murders, Mouse, who actually did the killing, does not care. Mouse is such an "animal," in fact, that he would even kill Easy if he suspected him of disloyalty. The irony of Mouse's name is that a mouse is typically seen as shy, nonviolent, and cowardly. As Easy tells us, Mouse is just the opposite of this image.

Easy's experience with Mouse in Pariah haunts him in such a way that he hides when he receives even a letter from Mouse. The name of the town is "Pariah," which literally means an exile or outsider. Fittingly, Easy's memories about the murders in Pariah make him feel morally bereft and isolated. The word "pariah" also echoes Easy's loneliness. True, he works towards independence and being a homeowner. But Easy is also a loner. He is especially lonely in his identity as a World War II soldier. Like many black soldiers returning to the South after fighting in the war, Easy finds himself a second-class citizen instead of the hero he knows he is. His encounter with the footballer and his friends reminds Easy of this. He says: "I could have killed all of them too. What did they know about violence? I could have crushed their windpipes one by one and they couldn't have done a thing to stop me. They couldn't even run fast enough to escape me. I was still a killing machine." Even though he puts up with the teenagers' racial slurs and prejudiced humiliation, Easy knows that he is a brave soldier. He is a much better soldier than Mr. Albright, who shows even unarmed teenagers little mercy. As he reminds Mr. Albright, Easy -- unlike him -- does not "kill children."