“I don’t know a lot of rude words”: Herbst, Paretsky, and Grafton’s Struggle to Master the Tough Guy Voice
Keywords:20th century American literature, womens studies, gender studies
AbstractAbstractThe proletarian literature of the 1930s and traditional 1930s era hard-boiled detective fiction are literary siblings. Both genres came of age in popular publications. Both genres deal with establishing order. Both genres use the “tough guy” voice. This voice was a no-nonsense powerful tool used to highlight the gritty realism of blue collar life. This style of writing quickly became a central component for both genres. Embedded in the term “tough guy voice” is masculine identity. This is the voice for the active underdog male hero. Writing in genres for women is an on-going challenge given the expectation of gender implied in the narrative voice. For the contemporary feminist hard-boiled detective and the 1930’s women proletarian protagonist to be taken seriously in their respective tough guy genres, they must show the same verbal acumen as the male characters who built the genres.At the core of each genre, the expectation that tough guys remain tough guys is an issue that stretches beyond the time frame of 1930s and 1940s to contemporary iterations of the genres. The gendered transition from male protagonist to female protagonist requires authors like Josephine Herbst, Sara Paretsky, and Sue Grafton to engage in a series of dynamic manipulations verbal and textual manipulations. Both sets of authors created protagonists that faced the threat of being dismissed due to their gender, traditional family roles, and conflicts with authority. The authors dealt with these threats using very similar strategies, to varying levels of success. Paretsky and Grafton’s heroines win verbal battles by showing mastery of the voice and the other voices in the texts. At the core of this struggle is the protagonists’ ability to maintain the power of professing.
Butler, J. (1990). Gender trouble: feminism and the subversion of identity. New York: Routeledge.
Chandler, R. (1969). Farewell, my lovely. New York: Alfred A. Knoph.
Foley, B. (1993). Radical representations: politics and form in U.S. proleterian fiction, 1939-1941. Durham: Duke University Press.
Foucault, M. (1978). History of sexuality: an introduction, volume I. New York: Vintage Books.
Foucault, M. (1980). Power/Knowledge: selected interviews and other writings (1973-1977). New York: Pantheon Books.
Grafton, S. (1985). B is for burglar. New York: Wing Books.
Grafton, S. (1986). C is for corpse. New York : Wing Books.
Herbst, J. (1939). Rope of gold. New York: Harcourt, Brace, and Co.
Madden, D. (ed). (1979). Tough guy writers of the thirties. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press.
McNay, L. (1993). Foucault and Feminism: power, gender and the self. . Boston: Northeastern University Press.
Paretsky, S. (1984). Deadlock. New York: Dell.
Paretsky, S. (1987). Bitter medicine. New York: Ballantine.
Rabinowitz, P. (1991). Labor and desire: women's revolutionary fiction in depression America. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.
Rideout, W. (1993). The radical novel in the United States, 1900 - 1954. New York: Columbia University Press.
Authors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:
- Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work (See The Effect of Open Access).