In A Lonely Place: Women Against Stereotypes (Women (Femme Fatale:…
In A Lonely Place:
Women Against Stereotypes
"You can't play me that way. There isn't any man I'll take that from."
This shows her subjective nature but also that she is more than a one-dimensional character; she is fiercely self-serving, independent and in control. This gives her an essence of the femme fatale.
"...looking him over, she gave him a small insolent smile. As if he were a dolt, not Dix Steele."
"...whenever she had a chance to be with that man, she didn't care whom she knocked down." This alludes to Laurel's femme fatale archetype through her sexual desires.
"He felt Sylvia's cringe at Laurel's use of the word dick for detective."
Shows Dix's presumption of Sylvia's role as the good girl housewife
"She wouldn't be sitting at home. She wasn't a Slyvia."
This presumption is destroyed by the end of the novel as both Sylvia and Laurel remain rational and effectual.
Role reversal: "She wasn't going to be allowed" yet she subverts this role as, with Laurel's help, sets a trap and catches Dix as the killer.
In making two powerful women the characters in control and catching Dix, Hughes is symbolising the demolishing of the misogynistic culture and the men who abode by it.
In A Lonely Place -Femme Fatale.
Obsession: DIX and LAUREL
Laurel is attracted to Dix because of his exceptionalism, his deviation from societal norms.
Their relationship disintegrates as her suspicions grow - his violent outbursts and frequent harsh judgements of others cause her to consider him as the killer.
Neale, Steve. 'Un-American' Hollywood: Politics and Film in the Blacklist Era. P71. USA: Rutgers University Press, 2007.
"The desperate need to be alone with Laurel, to force the truth out of her..." This shows the violent and obsessive nature of Dix, particularly towards Laurel.
"He wanted one thing only, to be alone with Laurel."
"...his hatred for Laurel throttled his brain."
Dismissal: DIX and SYLVIA
"[Brub has been] made different by being chained to a woman."
Isolation and paranoia of life after war has made Dix fearful of women - not just outside of the domestic sphere but how women are able to 'change' and 'control' men. He sees this in the 'plain' Sylvia.
"Sylvia wouldn't like Laurel; they weren't cut from the same goods." The novel sets up disdain between the pair numerous times, alluding to the notion of women in competition with each other. Hughes destroys this theme by having the pair team up to bring Dix down.
Typical endings of hard-boiled of fiction sends the femme fatale to jail or death and the good girl housewife must be rejected however, Hughes turns women's fate on its head.
Origins of American Noir.
The women are typically placed into these archetypes due to the genre. However, Hughes gives them elements of female stereotypes to give them the opportunity to overcome them: they are the true detectives of the story and can see through Dix and his aggressive, violent masculinity.
Women Crime Writers of the 1940s and 50s, Megan Abbott.
Femininity V Misogyny
His toxic "heterosexual masculinity" is critiqued subtly; Hughes brings her readers inside his mind in order to explicate how his misogyny is at the foundation of his masculine existence.
No Escape: In A Lonely Place. Rohan Maitzen, 2017
Dix is a symbol of how patriarchal post-war American society viewed women.
Women in Noir.
In coordination with the critique on misogyny, both Dix and Brub are portrayed as hysterical - the traditional portrayal of women. Dix bursts into tears and Brub "cried out in agony."
In taking on the typically 'masculine' roles of sleuths and detectives, the women have overturned the feminine stereotype of hysterical one dimensional characters: Sylvia calls out "It worked" "bell clear."
The 1950 film adaptation of the movie removes the elements of the anti-misogyny rhetoric that Hughes had been cultivating. The ending, as shown in the youtube clip, shows Laural as both fearful and heartbroken over Dix, having truly loved him. Irony is present as the Hollywood adaptation goes against the critique that Hughes had established. This is taken one step further by making Dix innocent in the end, which lessens Dix's status as a serial killer.
In A Lonely Place Ending.
Female Writer in Noir Fiction: Dorothy B. Hughes
"...neither of them gave a damn about anyone or anything except their own skins.” Dix sees the sexual and independent Laurel as a femme fatale - typically manipulative, controlling and a liar - yet identifies with her.
Through Dix's perspective and violence against women, Hughes is commenting on the post-war sexual panic and fear of emasculation present as she was writing.
Women Crime Writers of the 1940s and 50s, Megan Abbott.
Women and WW2
Women's positioning in the "economic world" caused "confusion over traditional concepts of sexual roles and sexual identity, leaving the American male insecure in his position in society" which heightens the misogyny at this time.
Women in Noir
Hughes's novel operates in achieving anti-misogyny rather than securing equality for women, but her presentation of Laurel and Sylvia, independent and housewife respectively, shows the feminist view that women are just as capable as men regardless of their lifestyle.
Men feared the emasculation of women in the workplace; this is shown through the power that women have in the novel - particularly through their penetrating stares.
The Origins of American Noir
"Hughes was too exuberant a writer...to follow genre rules... Her characters embrace pulp stereotypes in order to muss them up." (Los Angeles Magazine, 2004; "Fever Pitch" - Ariel Swartley.)
She even wrote under her own name, showing her progressive and confident nature.
She wrote 14 crime novels, with the majority being published between 1940 and 1952.
1947: year In A Lonely Place Written AND Black Dahlia murder
Sexual violence and aggression against women prominent in real life - this furthers her commentary on toxic masculinity, however in Hughes's novel, the perpetrator gets caught.
Dorothy brought a new essence to crime fiction, proving that women writers were just as powerful as men.
Her characters took the stereotypes of their gender and turned them on its head - particularly her female characters who took on traditionally masculine careers; detectives.
"If you don't take your hands off me, you won't be any good to any woman any more."