Final Post and Paper!

Lauren Mello


Hardboiled: American Detective Fiction


Researching Indemnity Only

.            I was assigned to the Indemnity Only group for the Wikipedia project. I was really

excited because I really enjoyed the book, and felt that it would be interesting to research

as well.  I offered to look up themes because that was the subject that I was particularly

interested in. I remembered that two common themes that stood out while reading the

book were: feminism and labor unions. Sabrina offered to research labor unions, so I took

on the task of researching feminism and gender equality. I knew that Sara Paretsky was a

groundbreaking author for introducing feminism and gender equality into the American

Detective Fiction genre. I was interested in finding out how she expressed feminism

through her main character, V. I. Warshawski.

.             I went to the library to see if the librarian could help me look for information about

Paretsky and feminism. We were able to find the database Literature Resources from Gale

which had quite a few articles about Paretsky and her work. Luckily a lot of them were

discussing how she influenced the new feminism movement in the American Detective

Fiction genre. Two sources in particular helped me to see how Paretsky wanted to

introduce the idea of feminism into her work: Sojourner: The Women’s Forum, a journal,

and the Female Dick and the Crisis of Heterosexuality, a critical essay. Both of these

articles provided additional insight as to what Paretsky was trying to do with her writing.


.         One particular article was actually an interview conducted by Monica Hileman from

Sojourner: A Woman’s Forum with Sara Paretsky. The interview discussed the reaction

that Paretsky received from her books and main character V.I Warshawski.  Paretsky said

that overall she was receiving good feedback and that a lot of women liked Warshawski as a

character. This encouraged Paretsky to share her envision for the protagonist. In the

interview she said, “It’s important for women to develop confidence in their bodies. I think

it’s encouraging to have characters like V.I who are confident and can hold their own

physically as well as verbally.”(Paretsky, Hileman)  This line made it seem like Paretsky

was particularly interested in encouraging women to gain confidence and stand up for

themselves. Paretsky definitely created Warshawski in that vision in several ways. First

off, Warshawski was in shape and made sure to take care of her body. This helped her

various times throughout the book when things got physical. For example, the time when

Master’s henchmen attempted to abduct Warshawski outside of her office, this did not

work well for the men. She was able to fight them off for a long time and caused some real

damage before they finally succeed in taking her, barely. Secondly, she also has a very

strong personality. She knows what she wants and she is going to get it. I think that

Paretsky succeeded in making V.I Warshawski a dominating female main character and

this helped enforce her theme of feminism and gender equality by proving that a woman is

capable of doing a ”man’s” job like being a private investigator.


.          The second resource I found was a critical essay by Ann Wilson titled “The Female

Dick and the Crisis of Heterosexuality”. The essay talked about how select female authors,

Paretsky included, shaped the idea of a strong female in a male dominated field.  Wilson

stated that, “…A heroine modeled on a hard-boiled detective is a woman who is self-reliant

and independent, a prototype of a feminist ideal.” This went along with Paretsky’s earlier

statement about having a very confident woman as the protagonist. According to Wilson,

Warshawski is a prime example of a feminist. Throughout the essay she goes on to talk

about how Paretsky influenced the new style of writing that involved having strong female

leads that in many ways out shine the men in the story. As she is describing the new style

of writing she goes on to say, “The conventional representation of the female body as

weaker than a man’s and therefore less effective in situations which require physical power

is exposed by Paretsky as a ruse: each author puts her heroine in situations which require

agility of mind and body.” Paretsky’s goal in writing Warshawski the way she did was so

that there would be a new image in American Detective Fiction that showed the ability of a

woman to function and succeed at the same level as a man.


.           Overall I found that Paretsky broke the norm for American Detective Fiction

writers. She helped to influence a new style of writing that involved a strong capable

female lead in a male dominated field. For the Wikipedia article I researched the theme of

feminism and gender equality. I also helped to form the character list and connected them

to each other. As needed we reviewed each other’s work to create a more uniform voice.

Once we all agreed on what information that was to be submitted we all met at the library.

I uploaded the information onto Wikipedia and formatted it to provided titles, sections, and

categories to clearly present our content. The project was frustrating at times when we

could not find enough information for a topic, but in the end we had enough resources to

create a solid and reliable Wikipedia page for help others learn about Indemnity Only.

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