Devil in a Blue Dress

Devil in a Blue Dress Summary and Analysis of Chapters 13-14


Chapter 13

When Easy arrives at Daphne's house, he realizes that he should have taken Odell's advice and left town. Daphne lets him in. She is young, about twenty-two, and beautiful though plain. She wears a simple blue dress. When Easy tries to give Daphne the cab money, she begs him to take her to her friend's house instead. Easy can tell that she is lying to him, but agrees because he realizes he is too deep into the mystery to go back. He explains, "If I was going to say no, it should have been to DeWitt Albright or even to Coretta." Before they leave, Daphne fetches an old suitcase that belongs to her friend, Richard, who lives on Laurel Canyon Road above Hollywood. Easy feels a renewed sense of power as he drives Daphne to Richard's. When they arrive at the house, the door is wide open. Richard is lying on his bed, stabbed to death with a butcher knife. Easy recognizes him as the drunk man he saw at John's Place the night he met Dupree and Coretta there. Easy sinks to his knee, flooded with memories of all the dead bodies he has seen. While he is on the floor, he notices something, smells it, and picks it up in his handkerchief. Then he notices that Daphne is gone. He finds her putting Richard's suitcase into the back of a pink Studebaker. Her French accent is replaced by a common Southern one. She says she is getting out of town and advises Easy to do the same. Then she kisses him so fiercely that she chips his tooth before driving off. Easy knows it is useless to try to stop her, but he has a renewed sense that he will triumph over his situation.

Chapter 14

As Easy drives home, a voice in his head gives him advice. When Easy suggests that he run like Odell suggested, the voice says, "Better be dead than leave." It tells him to stand up for himself and make things right. It reminds Easy that he is a strong man. Easy explains that the voice has been giving him objective advice ever since he was in the army. He recounts his army experience. He enlisted because he believed the propaganda for the war, but soon discovered that the army was segregated. He was made a typist in the statistics unit, which followed the troops and recorded their casualties. Even though he was trained as a soldier, he explains that "white men weren't anxious to see a gun in my hands. They didn't want to see me spill white blood. They said we didn't have the discipline or the minds for a war effort, but they were really scared that we might get to like the kind of freedom that death-dealing brings." One day, some white soldiers insulted Easy by saying that black soldiers were cowards. This roused Easy to volunteer for combat, something he considered very foolish. He took part in the invasion of Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge. Going back to the voice, Easy recalls the first time it spoke to him, when he was trapped in a barn outside Normandy. His two fellow soldiers were dead and there was a sniper waiting outside to kill him, too. The voice told him to kill the soldier with his bayonet and Easy did so. He says that ever since then, he has always listened to the voice. It never tells him to "rape or steal," but only how to survive.


The drive to Richard's house brings the reader a sense of relative calm before the major plot twists that happen once Easy and Daphne arrive. Easy recalls, "At every other curve, near the top of the road, we'd catch a glimpse of nighttime L.A. Even way back then the city was a sea of lights. Bright and shiny and alive. Just to look out on Los Angeles at night gave me a sense of power." Having found Daphne, Easy feels a sense of accomplishment that the city fortifies. For a moment, he feels as though he has triumphed over darkness and that his life is "... Bright and shiny and alive" like the city of Los Angeles. Once he and Daphne find Richard dead in his bed, Easy is thrown back into the tenuous balance between darkness and light.

Mosley uses Richard's murder scene as an opportunity to delve back into the themes of physical violence and war. As the plot intensifies, Mosley is careful not to glorify violence and death. One way in which he does so is by using very graphic descriptions that sicken, rather than thrill, the reader. Easy remembers how Richard's corpse looked: "He'd fallen on his back on a bunch of blankets so that the blood had flown upward, around his face and neck. There was a lot of blood around his wide-eyed stare. Blue eyes and brown hair and dark blood so thick you could have dished it up like Jell-O. My tongue grew a full beard and I gagged." Because of Mosley's graphic description, we gag along with Easy. In this scene and in the rest of the novel, death is not romantic; it is disgusting and sad.

Easy instantly connects the murder scene to his experiences in World War II. He sinks to his knee because he is so overcome by his memories. As Easy explains, "All the dead men I'd ever known came back to me in that instant ... Some were mutilated, some burned. I'd killed my share of them and I'd done worse things than that in the heat of war. I'd seen open-eyed corpses like this man Richard and corpses that had no heads at all." Easy's experience of death and more specifically, of killing others, has traumatized him as much as it has emboldened him. Even though Easy feels initial sympathy for Richard, he quickly becomes annoyed and irreverent, saying, "Death wasn't new to me and I was to be damned if I was to let one more dead white man break me down." More important than the fact that Richard is dead is that he is a white man. Easy feels beaten down enough by his experiences with the white Miller, Mason, and Mr. Albright that he sees through the tragedy of Richard's death to the racial issue at hand. This reminds us that Easy's experience of racism has left him with little love for any white man.

In Chapter 14, Mosley completes our image of Easy as a soldier. We discover that for him, fighting had everything to do with race and prejudice. Because blacks were forbidden to engage in combat at first, Easy had a desk job like many of his black comrades. Easy is so brave that he volunteers for combat and ends up fighting in some of the war's most notoriously bloody battles, specifically the Battle of the Bulge and the Invasion of Normandy. He wanted to prove to himself and others that black men were just as capable of bravery and strategy as white men. But Easy took much more from the War than images of death and resentment for prejudice. He developed the voice of reason that tells him what to do when he is in trouble. As we begin to see during this first encounter with the voice, Easy's instinct and intelligence are what make him survive one dangerous situation after another.