Tag Archives: details

Detail in Whose Body

“Mr. Parker was a bachelor, and occupied a Georgian but inconvenient flat at No. 12A Great Ormond Street, for which he paid a pound a week. His exertions in the cause of civilization were rewarded, not by the gift of diamond rings from empresses or munificent cheques from grateful Prime Ministers, but by a modest, though sufficient, salary, drawn from the pockets of the British taxpayer. He awoke, after a long day of arduous and inconclusive labour, to the smell of burnt porridge. Through his bedroom window, hygienically open top and bottom, a raw fog was rolling slowly in, and the sight of a pair of winter pants, flung hastily over a chair the previous night, fretted him with a sense of the sordid absurdity of the human form…” (44)

Unlike the contents of other modernist writings we have read, where much is omitted for the reader to figure out, or make their own assumptions of, Sayers’s book “Whose Body?” if very much detail oriented. In contrast, “The Jolly Corner” had descriptions that were meant to make the reader think more. The most descriptive moments in James’s story was in the silence, when nothing was said or told. Sayers uses a plethora of words to make the reader think more. As a mystery novel, the reader is prompted to read more into the words than into the silence. Her detailed descriptions do well to make the reader think.

Detail and Characterization in Whose Body?

“He sat down in the beautiful room in which Sir Julian’s patients awaited his healing counsel.  It was full of people.  Two or three fashionably dressed women were discussing shops and servants together, and teasing a toy griffon.  A big, worried-looking man by himself in a corner looked at his watch twenty times a minute.  Lord Peter knew him by sight.  It was Wintrington, a millionaire, who had tried to kill himself a few months ago.  He controlled the finances of five countries, but he could not control his nerves” (Sayers 117).


Sayers, Dorothy L. Whose Body? Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2009. Print.

Centering around the mystery of a dead body discovered in a bath tub, Whose Body? unfolds into a thought-provoking detective novel.  However, while the content is purposely kept confusing and misleading–as Sayers does not want readers to solve the crime prior to the point in which her protagonist does–the writing style is very direct and detail-oriented.  Sayers introduces readers to many minute observations that many other writers, especially modern writers, omit in their plots.  In fact, her attention to such details deters readers from figuring out the solution to the big question in her work: whose body?  Not only does Sayers provide careful observations about locations, but also about characters–even ones that do not appear to be important in terms of the plot of the work.  In this excerpt, she describes the waiting room of Sir Julian’s office, pointing out details about the patients that are waiting for their appointments.  She manipulates the language to directly characterize them rather than hinting at their traits, as she does when she describes the differences between the mental/emotional state and professional/business state of the the millionaire in the waiting room.