Tag Archives: Dorothy L. Sayers

In Whose Body

Dorothy L. Sayers, Whose Body?

“Well, out with it, my Bunter, you imperturbable old hypocrite. It’s no good talking as if you were announcing dinner-you’re spilling the brandy The voice is Jacob’s voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau. What does that blessed darkroom of yours want now?” (Sayers 10)

This book was interesting because of that fact that Lord Peter constantly contradicts himself. For instance, even though he is talking fondly with Bunter about how useful he is in saving money,  Lord Peter is also ridiculing him for not speaking up properly. Because of his contradictory manner, the book has a humorous undertone that seemingly belittles the severity of certain situations.

Internal Monologue Spoken Aloud

“That’s all, I think,” he murmured to himself. “Stay- I may as well have you –  you may come in useful – one never knows.”

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

The direct quotation of an internalized thought spoken out loud is an interesting aspect of Sayers’ narrative form. Whereas in “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man”, Joyce would use free indirect discourse to display the thoughts of a focalized character (Stephen) through the narrator, Sayers has Lord Peter speak his own internalized thoughts aloud. Joyce would even go as far as to have the narrator transcribe characters idiomatic phrases as the narrators own, bringing in the question of representation and narrative bias. By having Lord Peter speak his thoughts, there is less distance from reader to character, thus negating any possibility of a biased narrator.

The most interesting aspect of this quote is the phrase, “Stay- I may as well have you” as Lord Peter is alone in this scene. Its a questionable thought but it seems as if Lord Peter is speaking directly to the reader at this point. If so, Lord Peter’s actions would be concurrent with the typical conventions of a detective story, as this half of the quote strongly bolsters Peters bombastic ego. Needing a seemingly omniscient detective to retell the story of the crime in order to solve it is the mark of a conventional detective story, and this quote seems to reassure the reader that Lord Peter is in fact that character.

A Detective’s Self-Awareness

“Sugg’s a beautiful braying ass,” said Lord Peter. “He’s like a detective in a novel” (Sayers 13)

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

Within a small set of lines, we are given a self-aware and nearly parodic atmosphere to the novel, in which Lord Peters is acting as a detective within a detective novel claiming that someone else is a detective in a novel. This was also present when Sherlock Holmes was mentioned, in the first chapter. This gives the impression that the story is not about someone who happens to be interested in being a detective. Instead, Lord Peters is inspired, as Sayers most likely was, by detective novels and they were what encouraged him to go solve these mysteries, even though he has no occupational connection with the authorities. The fact that he is not aware that he is, in fact, a detective in a novel adds to the humor of the passage.

A thrilling response

“I don’t tell you so,” said Winsey. “You policemen are all alike – only one idea in your skills. Blest if I can make out why you’re ever appointed. He was shaved after he was dead. Pretty, ain’t it? Uncommonly jolly little job for the barber, what? Here, sit down, man, and don’t be an ass, stumpin’ about the room like that. Worse things happen in war. This is only a blinkin’ old shillin’ shocker. But I’ll tell you what, Parker, we’re up against a criminal – the criminal – the real artist and blighter with imagination – real, artistic, finished stuff. I’m enjoyin’ this, Parker.”

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

This particular passage calls for a thrilling, adrenalizing response from the reader which differs from that of Stein’s “Melanctha”. To begin with, the varied language of Sayers’s novel allows for more things to happen and allows Sayer to fill up the reader’s imagination with vibrant images that had not been done in “Melanctha”. In “Melanctha”, the language was simple with repetitive words that did not call for the kind of exciting response Sayers’s novel is calling for. Also, in Sayers’s novel, there is a plot that is following the murder of a body which adds to thrill a reader gets when the clues unravel and the reader is given more information. In “Melanctha”, I felt as if the same ideas were being stated over and over again, causing one to get tiresome and maybe even bored of reading about the same thing.

Descriptive Character Analysis

“Mr. Alfred Thipps was a small, nervous man, whose flaxen hair was beginning to abandon the unequal struggle with destiny. One might say that his only really marked feature was a large bruise over the left eyebrow, which gave him a faintly dissipated air incongruous with the rest of his appearance. Almost in the same breath with his first greeting, he made a self-conscious apology for it, murmuring something about having run against the dining-room door in the dark. He was touched almost to tears by Lord Peter’s thoughtfulness and condescension in calling.” (Sayers 4)

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

This was featured within the first chapter of the novel and they described the character in much detail. As the story progresses there are chapters when Sayer writes a description of other characters in full detail. The way she describes Mr. Alfred Thipps as a “small, nervous man…his only really marked feature was a large bruise over the left eyebrow,” helps the reader imagine how the character would look if he was real. Through this story, the reader can enjoy the plot by imagining the scenario in his or her mind through the vivid descriptions of the characters. In James Joyce’s novel it was hard to picture or imagine any of the character’s because they were not described in full detail. We were given that they were either “old or young, mean or nice, boring or fun,” but we were never given details of how they looked or how they act. The quote, “almost in the same breath with his first greeting, he made a self-conscious apology for it, murmuring something about having run against the dining-room door in the dark,” describes his actions in full detail as well. Instead of just stating, “he was murmuring,” the author is very outlined. The descriptions make the novel more interesting as it does not make the reader wonder what kind of character one is and the descriptions help the reader follow the scenario without feeling lost. It becomes hard to forget who the character’s are because we are provided with thorough and specific details that it makes it easier to distinguish each and every character.