Easy Rawlins is in many ways the typical private investigator of hard-boiled detective fiction. He works essentially for his own ends and is a free agent. He has a strong desire to uncover truth, even if he is the only one who ever possesses it, and to bring about justice, even when it is inconsistent with the law. A healthy dose of compassion, as exhibited by his love for his adopted son, Jesus, makes Easy a particularly well-drawn model of the hard-boiled detective as pioneered by major figures such as Dashiell Hammett’s Sam Spade, Raymond Chandler’s Phillip Marlowe, and Ross MacDonald’s Lew Archer. In short, Easy is a crusader for justice and truth in an unjust and illusory world.
Easy is not flawless. He drinks too much and is susceptible to certain male impulses. Easy is also complex. His character combines cynicism, based on his knowledge of the ways of the world, with idealism, based on his belief in a better world with which his conduct is in accord. Easy’s racial identity is also crucial to understanding his character. Whereas other private eyes are alienated philosophically from an unjust world, Easy himself is a member of an oppressed race. Part of the challenge he faces involves dealing with white powerholders from a position of socially imposed inferiority. Easy manages to triumph despite this obstacle, solving mysteries and keeping the authorities off his back. He also struggles to keep an even keel in his personal life.
Mouse represents a different model of accommodation to American racism. Put simply, Mouse is a killer. Easy,...
(The entire section is 644 words.)