Ambiguity of the Trickster : Conflicting Identities of Women Characters in Black Hard-Boiled Fiction



Year of publication 2022
Type Appeared in Conference without Proceedings
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Description In crime fiction written by Black American authors, the critique of corrupted society in the urban environment of traditional hard-boiled novels gets further amplified by the inclusion of racialized violence against the African American community. Apart from the conventional hard-boiled tropes and as a marginal genre of crime fiction, Black hard- boiled detection employs the vernacular tradition of signifyin(g), double consciousness or racism – internalised, individual and systemic. The paper proposes indirect references to trickster character traits in Walter Mosley’s hard-boiled novel Devil in a Blue Dress (1990) and the numerous ways African and African American oral folk traditions have been integrated into American crime fiction. Specifically, in regard to the teachings of Lewis Hyde and Henry Louis Gates Jr., the paper discusses how behavior of the novel’s titular antagonist Daphne Monet – who is passing and presented as the story’s villainous femme fatale – pertains to the notion of tricksters being mostly male, genderless or sexually ambiguous. Considering instances of gendered and racialized violence against Daphne’s persona, the paper thus argues that Daphne’s displayed trickster behavior derives from experienced racist and misogynist occurrences resulting in varying coping strategies to suppress trauma-related psychological effects. As a conflicted hard- boiled woman figure dealing with misogynoir, Daphne as a potential trickster manifests various ways of survival in a perilous, predominantly male-oriented setting.
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