Tag Archives: whose body

Whose Body…Sayers

“Thipps asked again to explain, stammers worse an’ says he walked about for a few hours-met a friend-can’t say who-didn’t meet a friend-can’t say what he did with his time-can’t explain why he didn’t go back for his bag-can’t say what time he did get in-can’t explain how he got a bruise on his forehead. In fact, can’t explain himself at all” (27).

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

Sayers uses repetition within this passage specifically using the word can’t, the word did is italicized which is interesting, along with rhythm diction since we see the dashes after every phrase, which gives the readers an auditory sense of someone stammering about the jumble thoughts within their mind.

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.

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.

Whose Body?

“He drifted across the passage into his bedroom, and was changing with a rapidity one might not have expected from a man of his mannerisms. He selected a dark-green tie to match his socks and tied it accurately without hesitation or the slightest compression of his lips; substituted a pair of brown shoes for his black ones, slipped a monocle into a breast pocket, and took up a beautiful Malacca walking-stick with a heavy silver knob” (p.4)

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


This novel becomes increasingly more and more descriptive as you read through the chapters. As we progress, the attention to detail is so evident that it keeps me wanting to read more. The description of Lord Peter going through the options of his clothing and delicately placing a monocle into his pocket. This vivid imagery helps the reader imagine the scenario in place. Sayers truly describes everything in detail giving clear images of what she wishes you to see. Compared to the other texts we have read such Stein’s story Melanctha or Conrad’s text Heart of Darkness, the imagery is completely evident. The other texts continually use literary devices which can sometimes make the purpose of the scene unclear. Sayers text sets the scene and the purpose of the scene always feels evident.

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.

“I feel sure that my brain will be of interest…”

“Trusting I have now made clear to you any point which you may have found obscure, and with congratulations on the good fortune and perspicacity which have enabled you to defeat me, I remain, with kind remembrances to your mother,

Yours Very Truly,

Julian Freke

Post-Scriptum: …I feel sure that my brain will be of interest to the scientific world. As I shall die by my own hand, I imagine that there may be a little difficulty about this” (pp. 139-40).

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

Sayers, in this passage and throughout the novel, knows how to keep a reader on the edge of their seat while reading Whose Body?. By the end of each chapter, Sayers has a tendency to use cliff hangers, wanting the reader to read more. However, in this passage specifically, it is quite interesting how Freke’s letter is ended mid-sentence, yet continues with the “Post-Scriptum” after he signs the letter. Compared to the other texts we have read, the other authors use many literary devices to somewhat distract the reader from the actual text. Stein’s story “Melanctha,” for example, has the tendency to use complex diction that leads readers away from the actual story/plot that is occurring. Sayers, on the other hand, is more of a easy-read, for lack of a better term. Readers know exactly what is happening while they are reading.

Immediate Action

” ‘He rang them up to say he couldn’t. He was so upset, poor little man. He’d found a dead body in his bath.’

‘Sorry, Mother, I can’t hear; found what, where?’

‘A dead body, dear, in his bath.’

‘What?—no, no, we haven’t finished. Please don’t cut us off. Hullo! Hullo! Is that you, Mother? Hullo!—Mother!—Oh, yes—sorry, the girl was trying to cut us off. What sort of body?’ ”

I appreciate this chunk of dialogue here for introducing the plot on the first page of the text.  The story open with Lord Peter Wimsey conversing with a cab driver, an already exciting start that puts the reader within the action, and then immediately the reader is thrust forward into the plot.  A dead body is found and in one motion, context is given to the title, and the word body is repeated three times in these four lines to make it impossible to forget.  This writing is exciting; it draws the reader in faster than any other text we’ve read.  Other texts, such as Melanctha and Heart of Darkness felt like they were being told from a distance.  Those texts can be as exciting as this, however, the worlds read about feel at a distance compared to Whose Body? which draws in the reader immediately.  The reader is not expected to simply read and comprehend, but go beyond that and experience the story, which is also made possible by the extensive amount of dialogue.