An Unsuitable Job For A Woman Essay

As the late Robert Peel once said, “The police are the public, and the public are the police”. Theoretically, Peel’s statement proves true as policing is the duty of maintaining order carried out by members of society. The police are the civil force of a local or national government consisting of many departments, units, and individuals tasked with different responsibilities; the most prominent being the role of the detective. Historically, the detective has been a position dominated by men as women have traditionally been phased out of consideration for the role.

In modern day police institutions, women account for a significant number of officers, including but not limited to, the detective. The novel An Unsuitable Job for a Woman by P. D James is written in 1972 during the pinnacle of the feminist movement, and features a woman as the lead detective; a concept that at the time of publication is seen as absurd and inconceivable. An Unsuitable Job for a Woman contrasted with the essay The Simple Art of Murder by Raymond Chandler undoubtedly proves women belong in detection.

Women face stigma regarding gender association with detection and have overcome many barriers in making is evident that they belong in detection just as much as their male counterparts. In James’ An Unsuitable Job for a woman, the sudden passing of detective Cordelia Gray’s partner has resulted in her becoming responsible for assuming the role of the head detective, a position that at the time of publication is dominated by men. In spite of the novel’s fictitious narrative, at the time a female detective is an absurd concept and one that in fact belongs in the imaginary realm of fiction.

Raymond Chandler discusses the genre of crime fiction in the essay The Simple Art of Murder stating, “The detective in this kind of story must be such a man. He is the hero… he is a man of honor in one thing”. Chandler is referring to the conventional crime fiction novel in which the detective role is always portrayed by a male. In contrast to Chandler’s observation, the character of Cordelia Gray defies traditional conventions as a female has assumed the role of lead detective in favor of a man, who at the time is viewed as being more suitable for the job.

Furthermore, the contrast between Raymond Chandler’s perception of the traditional crime fiction genre and the reality of the crime fiction novel An Unsuitable Jon for a Woman illustrate the importance of women in detection. Chandler believes that a crime fiction novel must have a male as the lead detective stating, “He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man”. Chandler’s diction implies that women reserve no right in detection as he consistently uses the words “he” and “man” to make reference to the hypothetical detective present in the crime fiction genre.

Author P. D. James has clearly disregarded the stigma regarding the dominance of the male detective in crime fiction novels that reader are accustomed too at the time of the publication of An Unusual Job for a Women. Despite the dominance of the male detective and belief that the profession is “unsuitable” for a woman, P. D. James has shown that detection is a job suitable for a capable woman such as the character of Cordelia Gray.

Much like what P. D. James has done with the creation of a female detective in Cordelia Grey, female authors Sue Grafton and Sara Paretsky have created similar fictitious female detectives named V. I. Warshawski, and Kinsey Millhone. Professor Patricia E. Johnson holds a PhD and is a specialist in literature. Johnson praises the accomplishments of both Grafton, and Paretsky writing, “both create female detectives who imitate a male model almost to a tee- the hard-boiled male detective, emotionally and financially independent, a loner” (Johnson, 97).

The female detectives created by Grafton and Paretsky mirror Gray, James’s fictitious character. Raymond Chandler is adamant in his belief that the fictitious detective is a role suited for a man, yet his ideology has been dismantled by the existence of these assertive female detectives. Cordelia is a female that has suddenly stumbled across the role of lead detective of a case she ultimately solves, further solidifying the argument that women belong in detection just as much as men do.

Professor Johnson also writes, “Like the male detectives, Kinsey Millhone and V. I. Warshawsk define themselves through their profession which deals with issues traditionally seen as male: violence, crime, and power” (Johnson, 97). Detection is traditionally bounded by the inaccurate belief that the profession is suited for men. Cordelia, along with the fictitious characters mentioned by Professor Johnson dismantle this belief held by individuals such as Raymond Chandler.

Cordelia’s ability to efficiently solve cases in a manner equivalent to or far exceeding a man’s capability render the ideology that detection is solely for men to be false and irrelevant. Heather Worthington, author of Key Concepts in Crime Fiction writes about the cultural concepts regarding the fictional crime genre. Worthington states, “Writers such as Sara Paretsky and Sue Grafton in America… appropriated the strongly masculine hardboiled genre of crime fiction in order to demonstrate that the female detective could be equally as effective” (Worthington, 167).

Worthington’s statement addresses the appropriatic statement addresses the appropriation of the male dominated crime genre as traditional beliefs resembling or embodying that of Chandler’s are challenged and effectively dismantled by the likes of iconic female detectives such as Cordelia Gray. Upon encountering a man in regards to an open case, Cordelia describes the man’s presence as, “that almost physical glow, akin to sexuality and undimmed by weariness or ill-heath, of men who knew and enjoyed the realities of power” (James, 40).

The mannerisms of the aforementioned man reflect that of a man living during a time of gender inequality and bias. Cordelia notices his demeanor as an expression of a man “who knew and enjoyed the realities of power”, the powers being the cushion provided by the bigotry and prejudicial ideals being that men are better suited than women for professions such as detection. Cordelia defies the ideology voiced by Raymond Chandler that parallels the man’s poise as she ultimately asserts the fact that women indeed belong in detection as she is able to solve a case originally intended for her male partner.

Women have long been disregarded for numerous opportunities stemming from the irrational belief that men are inherently better. P. D. James, author of An Unsuitable Job for a Woman has addressed and effectively abolished the absurd assumption that detection is an unsuitable job for women. The fictitious character of detective Cordelia Gray symbolizes the dissipation of the idea that detection is a profession unsuitable for women, as she proves she is able to assume the responsibly of lead detective in the place of a man, who at the time is assumed to be genetically superior based on the false pretense that males triumph over females.

The essay The Simple Art of Murder written by Raymond Chandler outlines the irrational ideologies that detection is a profession suited and limited to men. Chandlers essay in contrast with James’ novel provides evidence sufficient enough to support the theory that women are suited for the role of detective, as a female detective has shattered all notions regarding the idea that women are incapable and men rein superior.