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New Essays on Eudora Welty, Class, and Race$
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Harriet Pollack

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781496826145

Published to University Press of Mississippi: May 2020

DOI: 10.14325/mississippi/9781496826145.001.0001

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Welty’s Moonlighting Detective

Welty’s Moonlighting Detective

Whiteness and Eudora Welty’s Subversion of the American Noir Tradition in “The Demonstrators”

(p.189) Welty’s Moonlighting Detective
New Essays on Eudora Welty, Class, and Race

Jacob Agner

, Harriet Pollack
University Press of Mississippi

This essay argues that Eudora Welty’s 1966 civil rights story, “The Demonstrators,” casts a spotlight on the “crime” of systemic racism in the U.S. South through the popular crime genre of American noir fiction and film. Although a mid-twentieth-century category mainly recognized for its depictions of dark cities and shadowy “mean streets,” noir’s stylized world collides with the Closed Society in Welty’s late story and throws into stark relief the subtler effects of white supremacy. Turning noir’s key traits on their head (e.g., black-and-white chiaroscuro lighting, the femme fatale, and the tropes of hard-boiled detective fiction), Welty throughout “The Demonstrators” brilliantly illuminates the subtle tactics of, and clues left behind by, criminalized acts of whiteness. In so doing, Welty’s masterful crime story pays homage to classic noir artists such as Dashiell Hammett, Chester Himes, and Alfred Hitchcock.

Keywords:   The Demonstrators, film, noir, detective fiction, Chester Himes

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