Devil in a Blue Dress

Devil in a Blue Dress Summary and Analysis of Chapters 11-12


Chapter 11

After he leaves the police station, Easy heads for John's Place. He wants to run, but knows that the police will arrest him again just for being a black man at a running pace. After a few blocks, a Cadillac pulls up near him and the driver addresses him by name. He says that "someone in the back" wants to chat with Easy, but Easy brushes him off. Even when the driver offers Easy fifty dollars to get into the car, he refuses. Finally, the driver pulls the Cadillac onto the curb and gets out to talk to Easy, who is by now calculating how best to defend himself against the tall, white driver. The driver tells Easy that the man in the back knows why he was taken down to the police station and wants to talk to him about it. Sensing Easy's continued distrust, he offers: "If he wanted to hurt you you'd already be dead." Easy gets in and the car speeds off.

Easy meets the fat, white man who has been seeking him. He is grotesque with his fat face and big lips "like swollen wounds." Without taking time for introductions, the man asks Easy where Daphne Monet is. Easy pretends he does not know who Daphne is and focuses his attention on a mysterious shallow storage space behind the seat. The man calls, "Come on out, honey," and a small Mexican boy in dirty underwear and socks crawls out of the space and curls around the man's leg. Of the child, he says, "This is my little man ... He's the only reason I can keep on going." Easy identifies the man as Matthew Teran, who dropped out of the mayor's race weeks before. When Easy continues to evade his questions about Daphne, Teran asks if he knows who Howard Green is. Easy says yes but pretends that no one mentioned Howard the night he was at John's. Sensing that Easy is not going to break, Teran tells the driver to take Easy where he wants to go, and Easy directs him to John's.

When they arrive, Easy refuses money from Teran because he "[doesn't] want to touch anything that that man had touched." He tells Easy to call his office if he thinks of anything. Easy rushes out of the car and into Hattie's grocery shop. Hattie immediately senses Easy's unease and he explains that he was taken down to the police station. Hattie tells him that Coretta has been murdered in the same manner as Howard Green, so that her body was barely recognizable. Dupree has been taken in for questioning as well. Hattie fetches Odell for Easy, who asks him for a ride home. When they arrive at Easy's house, Odell advises him to leave town. Easy says he cannot leave town even though he "could have driven across the nation with the money Albright had given [him.]" When he looks at his house, he is too proud of how far he has come to run. Always a good friend, Odell idles in front of the house to make sure Easy gets into his house safely.

Chapter 12

Easy must drink a large amount of bourbon before he can fall asleep, because visions of Coretta keep haunting him. A phone call awakens Easy; Junior is on the other end. He has "just remembered" that he saw Daphne with Frank Green at John's the week before. Easy pretends not to care about Daphne and hangs up, but he is intrigued. Junior must know something if he took the trouble to call Easy in the middle of the night.

Finally, Easy falls back to sleep. He dreams about fishing for catfish like he did when he was a boy. The phone rings again, but Easy resists answering it because he is dreaming that he has hold of a catfish with a snout "the size of a man's torso." He recalls, "I couldn't answer it without losing my fish so I shouted for my mother to get it, but she must not have heard because the phone kept on ringing and that catfish kept trying to dive. I finally had to let it go and was almost crying when I picked up the receiver." A French woman is on the other end of the line: it is Daphne Monet. She tells Easy that two days before, Coretta told Daphne that he was looking for her, and demanded that Daphne bribe her not to reveal her whereabouts. Daphne says she gave Coretta her last twenty dollars and mentions Frank Green. Easy tells Daphne that Coretta was beaten to death. Daphne is scared and says that if Easy does not help her, she will go to the police and tell them about him and Coretta. Finally, Easy agrees to come over and give Daphne enough money for a cab so that she can try to find Frank.


Chapter 11 introduces the major theme of sexual perversity. Everything about Matthew Teran is grotesque. In fact, Easy notices the nauseating scent of his car before he even meets the man. The moment the driver opens the door for Easy, he smells something "... Sweet like perfume and sour, an odor of the body that [he] recognized but could put no name to." The filthiness of Teran's car as well as the little boy's despicably unkempt appearance reflect the perversity of sexual slavery and pedophilia. Easy writes that the boy is wearing "soiled briefs" and that "Thick mucus threaten[s] to flow from the boy's nose." Teran himself is also grotesque in appearance. Easy remembers that he is fat and"ha[s] lips that [are] fat and red. They [look] like swollen wounds." These putrid smells, bodily fluids, and references to wounds compound the revolting nature of the situation. Mosley also uses the character of Teran to criticize government. After all, he makes Teran, who was a candidate for mayor, a pedophile and criminal. The whole society of L.A. seems utterly corrupt, as embodied in Teran.

Mosley uses the scene inside Teran's car as another opportunity to explore animal symbolism. Easy recalls that the little boy looks at him with cautious fascination: "His mouth was open and he stared at me as if I were a strange animal. Not a dangerous animal, maybe the corpse of a dog or porcupine run over and bleeding on the highway." The way the boy looks at Easy says more about Easy's state of mind than the boy's, because like the rest of the novel, this description is from Easy's perspective. Easy sees himself reflected in the stare of someone completely innocent. Therefore, he sees his own image of himself. Like an animal hit by a car and dying, Easy feels helpless and abused. He has been mistreated by Mason and Miller, and now coerced into a disgusting environment with Matthew Teran.

Mosley uses animal symbolism again in Chapter 12, when Easy is dreaming about the catfish. Even though Easy dreams of his childhood in the South, the content of the dream is clearly his deep anxiety. The dream is a sort of allegory for the way Easy feels about his situation. He began his involvement with the Daphne Monet case innocently, wanting only to earn enough money to pay his mortgage and facilitate his goal of being independent. The catfish represents this goal. He has taken the first step in 'hooking' it and it is within his reach. But just as Easy's dilemma has become larger-than-life and spiraled out of control, the catfish is too big for Easy to control. Even though Daphne is the key to Easy's financial comfort and happiness, she is also throwing his life off balance and putting his dream at risk. To underline this, Mosley makes not just anyone's phone call, but Daphne's, interrupt Easy's dream.

In Chapter 11, Odell becomes Easy's voice of fear. He tells Easy to run from his problems and return to a simpler, safe life. But Easy is a thrill-seeker: nothing but his pride keeping Easy from using the money Mr. Albright paid him to escape back to Houston and live a 'normal' life. Odell is also one of the only characters in the book who is, as far as we know, completely honest. He does not hide his feelings or feel the need to be brave. It is enough for him to be a good friend to others and live a quiet, simple, life. That is his idea of honor, whereas others need adventure, danger, money and lust.

In Chapter 12, we encounter an innocent side to Easy that connects him to Odell. Coretta's murder shakes him to the foundation. He resorts to drinking to calm himself, but even that does not prevent his anxiety from keeping him awake. He says, "I was still young enough that I couldn't imagine death really happening to someone I knew. Even in the war I expected to see friends again, though I knew they were dead." Easy is not so shy that he runs away from danger and death like Odell. But he is not hardened like Mouse and Mr. Albright. Despite his sometimes violent actions, Easy is a moral and cautious person at the core. This is what ultimately keeps him alive when so many others fall.