Theory and Practice of Classic Detective Fiction

By Jerome H. Delamater; Ruth Prigozy | Go to book overview

15
Class, Gender, and the Possibilities
of Detection in Anne Perry's
Victorian Reconstructions

Iska S. Alter

The fierce psychic landscape, the disrupted social universe, and the equivocal moral geography that constitute Anne Perry's bleak version of late-nineteenthcentury London reconstruct a male-directed culture of authority and submission. Here me unavoidable intersections of presumably fixed categories of class, gender, and sexuality provoke the very transgressive acts mat such configurations of separation are meant to contain, discipline, or perhaps, at the last, even deny. The complex, entangling network of “mutually agreed deceits” (CS 130) that defines a society whose continuation is sustained by the contradictory intricacies of isolation and dependence produced by class disjuncture and gender segregation insures an environment that “is all to do with what seems and nothing to do with what is” (RR 64). Throughout Perry's fictions, these patterns of evasion and secrecy, private duplicity and public artifice, emerging from the “icebound rules” (RP 27) of decorum and propriety negotiated by the dominant culture to regulate the inchoate energies of the marginalized and the powerless, create the conditions that name criminal behavior. The illusory, if placid, arrangement of surface generated by the ideology of division, which would establish order through hierarchical control, certainty through willed ignorance, and serenity through passional repression, simultaneously engenders its own subversive counterparts—a jungle of Darwinian reciprocity:

“I know perfectly well there is a world of criminal classes whose standards are totally
different … at least from mine!”

“Oh, very different…. Although whether you are referring to moral standards
or standards of living you didn't say. But perhaps they are not so far apart as the
words imply. In fact, I have come to think they are usually symbiotic…. Each depend-
ent upon the other. A relationship of coexistence, of mutual feeding.” (CSH 76)

-159-

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