Study Guide

White Butterfly

by Walter Mosley

White Butterfly Summary

Summary (Masterpieces of American Fiction)

White Butterfly takes place in 1956. Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins, the hero of Walter Mosley’s previous two detective novels, is now married to a beautiful black nurse named Regina. Easy and Regina are rearing two children, their infant daughter, Edna, and Jesus, a young Mexican American boy rescued by Easy in an earlier adventure. This life is not idyllic, however. Easy has not told Regina about his secret business holdings or the detective work he does on the side for friends and the police. There are also other instances of miscommunication between the two that cloud the future of their marriage.

The situation worsens when Easy is approached first by black policeman Quinten Naylor and then by a slew of high city officials for help in tracing a serial murderer loose in Watts. This final burst of attention is brought about by the first white victim, Robin Garnett. Up until this time, the victims had been black prostitutes and exotic dancers. The white victim, however, was a college student from a respectable family. Like the other victims, her body was partly burned and mutilated. Easy resents the sudden concern of the white officials, apathetic when the victims were black. He is nevertheless coerced into helping when the police threaten to pin the crimes on Easy’s best friend, Mouse.

Easy goes to work, frequenting bars and asking questions that lead him to a suspect and to a disturbing revelation. The white coed led a double life,...

(The entire section is 595 words.)

White Butterfly Summary (Masterpieces of American Literature)

White Butterfly takes place in 1956. Easy is married and raising two children, an infant from his new marriage and Jesus, the orphan from the earlier books. This life is not idyllic, however; Easy has not told Regina, his wife, about his secret business holdings or about his detective work. Moreover, there are other important instances of miscommunication between the two that cloud the future of their marriage. On the other hand, Easy is staying away from bars and living a cleaner, healthier life.

The situation worsens when Easy is approached—first by black policeman Quinten Naylor and then by a slew of high city officials—for help in tracing a serial murderer in Watts. This burst of attention is brought about by the appearance of a white victim. Up until this time, the victims have been black prostitutes and exotic dancers; the white victim, though, is a college student from a respectable family. Easy is bullied into helping when officials threaten to pin the crimes on Mouse.

Easy goes to work, frequenting bars and asking questions that lead him to a suspect but also to a surprising revelation: The white coed led a double life, coming to Watts to work as the “White Butterfly.” When Easy reports this, he is told to discontinue his line of inquiry, partly because the girl’s father is a former district attorney. Curiosity, though, gets the better of Easy. He speaks to the girl’s mother, who is quite upset. The police...

(The entire section is 503 words.)