Describing the body

“The body which lay in the bath was that of a tall, stout man of about fifty. The hair, which was thick and black and naturally curly, had been cut and parted by a master hand, and exuded a faint violet perfume, perfectly recognisable in the close air of the bathroom. The features were thick, fleshy and strongly marked, with prominent dark eyes, and a long nose curving down to a heavy chin. The clean-shaven lips were full and sensual, and the dropped jaw showed teeth stained with tobacco. On the dead face the handsome pair of pince-nez mocked death with grotesque elegance; the fine gold chain curved over the naked breast. The legs lay stiffly stretched out side by side; the arms reposed close to the body; the fingers were flexed naturally.” (Sayers 8)

Sayers, Dorothy. Whose Body? 1923. Reprint, New York: Dover, 2009.

In her novel, Whose Body?, Sayers consistently gives the reader specific and detailed information on the characters as well as the events taking place. This passage directly tells the reader what the body in the bath looks like. This description distinctively states what Lord Peter sees, and therefore the reader gets a clear picture of the appearance of the body and can imagine himself at the scene. Contrastingly, in The Jolly Corner, Henry James is not as upfront with the reader. James’ character Brydon does not always relay to the reader the information needed to piece the story or scene together. There is not always an obvious picture of what he is experiencing, which leaves the reader frequently wondering about what is actually happening. This technique of delayed specification is not used by Sayers in this passage, which shows a clear difference between the two stories. One is very explicit in giving descriptions, while the other is continuously delaying in giving the reader information.