A Little Yellow Dog Themes
by Walter Mosley

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A Little Yellow Dog Themes

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Easy Rawlins is confronted with problems of how to survive and preserve moral integrity in a society without ideals and values. There are racist overtones to his situation, and the morally corrosive effects of racism bring a vital theme to the Easy Rawlins novels. At the same time, the struggles Easy goes through have much to do with the universal theme that human life is precarious. In an inevitably imperfect society, and especially in one as unprincipled as Easy's, hard work and good morals are not enough to ensure anyone a solid foothold. When the novel begins, it seems that Easy has moved up in life to a respectable Board of Education job because of his good efforts and qualifications. It soon becomes clear from a flashback that Easy got the job by the usual means open to him, which is taking advantage of a situation and making a deal. In this case, he extricated a white area supervisor from blackmail.

Easy achieves justice by orchestrating criminal elements or his own shady contacts, not by resorting to the corrupt white power system. What marks the mystery series is the way Easy confronts the problem of evil's existence by accepting it, then using it—as best he can—for good. Easy also is the "little guy" who confronts evil as the basically decent working man of any ethnic or racial background. Easy realizes this universal humanity when a white subordinate, Ace Muldoon, supplies him—not the police—with a needed clue in the case. Easy distrusted Ace before, thought the respect he showed was "guile," but "now all I saw was a kindred spirit; a man trod on by his history, his poverty."

Life's problems of survival are compounded by the inevitability of change. The individual must be adaptable, and Easy certainly is. Yet before the novel ends, he is almost overwhelmed by the...

(The entire section is 475 words.)