Tag Archives: dorothy sayers

Stereotype

“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 recognizable 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” (8).

This description is clearly of a British stereotype of a Jewish man.  Even before I got to the point where the characters are explicit about it, and before reading their anti-Semitic remarks, I was pretty confident that the dead man in the tub was Jewish.  Introducing stereotype through detailed physical description is a very different tactic from the one Gertrude Stein employs in Malanctha.  Rather than take advantage of a reader’s response to physical description, Stein mostly sticks to describing behaviors and thought patterns to communicate stereotype.  Sayers and Stein use call on different parts of the reader’s probable internalization of stereotype to advance their stories.

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

Characters brought to life in dialogue

“I give you full credit for the discovery, I crawl, I grovel, my name is Watson, and you need not say what you were just going to say, because I admit it all.”

Sayers, Dorothy. Whose Body? 1923. Reprint, New York: Dover, 2009.  pp 30.

Here we get some insight on the character of Lord Peter Whimsey. The novel does an extraordinary job creating a personality for a character through dialogue that really makes them come to life. In moments such as this one we can see Lord Peter Whimsey admitting his slight oversight of some evidence, but instead of humbly admitting his failure to have noticed it himself, he repeatedly mentions it. What’s more is he creates such a volume to his report of missing the evidence that it begins to come across as insincere as well as humorous for the reader. This ultimately gives shape to Lord Whimsey’s character and allows us to see how someone of his status in society truly feels about these cases, almost as if it were a game or one of his beloved detective novels, as well as showing how prideful he is in thinking that he is normally always right.