Masaryk University Faculty of Arts Department of English and American Studies

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6.3Rendell’s Police Women

Road Rage presents class structures and human relationships rather than some bonds of womanhood, but some female characters’ groupings can be traced even here. They create a sort of alliance and some bond signs can be located. Women in the text represent largely individuals who fight for their own beliefs, nevertheless, there exist one significant bond of women found in the police apparatus and it sets an excellent example.

Women Police is relatively recent state apparatus which has a brief history. The participation of the Women Police Volunteers, afterward called the Women’s Auxiliary Service, was initiated in 1914 by Margaret Damer Dawson and the journalist Nina Boyle. “Commissioner Sir Edward Henry gave permission for the women to patrol the streets and gave them identification cards. Their role was mainly with prostitutes” (Women Police). The establishment obtained the police ranks of Sergeant and Inspector and re-named itself the Woman Police Service. Besides the Woman Police Service, there coexisted the National Council of Women’s Special Police Patrols with the head Sophia Stanley which shortly developed into the first originally accepted Women Police. Rendell’s text reflects a woman’s touch in the police force. She introduces two representatives of the police apparatus and, therefore, initiates the specialized female detective police officers and the women are professionally accepted as the Women Police. In the novel examined, Karen Malahyde is presented as one of the female police officers in the detective agency. She impersonates an excellent police officer who was “promoted to detective sergeant the previous year” (RR 85) and she is also an exceptional driver. Her appearance indicates her profession; her expression always very serious, her dark eyes steady, and her hair too bleakly cut. On the other hand, her figure creates an athletic build and she can compare herself with many catwalk models. Nicola Weaver shapes another representative of the police bond of womanhood who gets also involved in the case while investigating the possible suspects. Her features are similarly defined as Karen’s. Wexford and Burden must admit that this woman has “still to be very good to have risen to where she [is] at her age.” She possesses the distinctive features of a woman police officer: “she had strong features, black hair severely cut, the fringe at right angles to the sides […]. Her eyes were a clear turquoise-blue and though she seldom smiled, when she did she showed perfect white teeth” (RR 99). When Wexford shakes hands with her, he experiences a very firm handshake, one of the police officer’s. Karen Malahyde represents an excellent driver who hardly makes mistakes and Nicola Weaver possesses the female characteristics, such as intuition and ability to spot any detail that could help in the investigation, for example, when she glimpses the car, which brought Dora home in: “A white Mercedes. For some reason – God knows what guardian angel inspired me – I took down the number. It’s L570 LOO” (RR 224). The two women symbolize the police force bond of womanhood that connects them together and they perform a great job in fulfilling their professional duties.

6.4Fyfield’s Housewives

The rate of solidarity and the rate of rivalry become significant among the female characters in Fyfield’s novel. The author also creates an invisible bond of womanhood in the text discussed as well as Christie, Sayers, and to some extent even Rendell. The women structures are mostly visible in Fyfield’s novel since her main characters and protagonists specifically manifest female features. Helen West’s character simply epitomizes the aspects of solidarity in terms of her battle for helping the battered women, most of the time mothers and housewives, and also her battle for acknowledging her social and professional rank within the community she lives in.

Crown Prosecutor Helen West and Constable Mary Secura lead a silent war in the area of domestic violence. They deal with housewives who deny that their husbands cause them actual grievous bodily harm and only a few of them really overcome their fear and resume courage to speak against their partners. Mary Secura experiences several cases where the women and at the same time mothers confess and save their own lives: “Now she saw it as the triumph of motherhood, which also saved the lives of half her witnesses since it was usually the kids who made the mothers either leave or give evidence, in the end” (CC 450). It was the case of Shirley Rix, a mother of a three-year-old child, who is made to drink beer by his father, then he shoves the kid into bed and beats his wife. This act makes Shirley Rix feel the mother duties as well as motherhood and she informs against her husband, afterwards runs away with her little boy before the trial can take place, which suggests half victory for Mary Secura, but at least she perhaps saves hers and her child’s life. Mary Secura strives to stress the issue of motherhood in her witnesses’ cases and shows the victims the proper way of living with their partners, or at least she tries to persuade them that the relationship is not worthwhile.

Mary Secura and Helen West also form a bond of womanhood, similarly to Christie’s and Sayers’ common understanding among women. The two of them daily experience the same victimized subjects and share their identical view of the battered housewives. They do not only sympathize with each other in the professional sphere, but also cooperate in their private lives: “What the hell does his opinion matter? Yellow? Paint or Wallpaper? […] I’ve got a yellow bathroom. Big roses. Love it,” says Mary to Helen when they talk about Helen’s decision from the housewife perspective to decorate her living-room in yellow. Mary suggests to Helen that “there’s an amazing do-it-yourself paint and wallpaper shop down the road. Why else do you think I like this court?” (CC 455). Their eyes meet in mutual recognition for a second, however they continue in their work then, saving the lives of innocent women. Helen also has other friends in her private life, which she really appreciates since it is difficult to “share friends with Bailey. He was not a sociable animal, despite his great and diffident charm, and there were hazards in taking him out and about among friends who thought policemen were dangerous freaks” (CC 468). The Eliots are a couple of very few friends that Helen and Bailey can both enjoy. Her role in the bond of womanhood either with Mary Secura, or with Emily, plays a significant part in her life and enlightens her existence.

Emily Eliot also symbolizes one of the elements in the bonds of womanhood, mentioned in the previous subchapters, considering the gossipy characteristic of women. Emily is a housewife and she often meets with her cleaning lady, Cath who is “supposed to have a reputation for time-wasting gossip, talking when [she] should be working” (CC 502), but here the situation is quite reversed. Emily speaks, at length, about nothing and everything, and Cath usually stands up and notes that they should get to work. Helen also experiences Emily’s chattiness when she talks to her: “Look, I need gossip” (CC 512) and she goes on whatever troubles her at the moment. Emily shapes two bonds of womanhood – gossip and housewife. On the other hand, there exists the rivalry against women which also characterizes their relations and bonds, in which Emily has a prominent role. Not only does Emily desire to be the best mother, wife and woman, but also the female protagonist, Helen, unobtrusively carries her rivalry against Emily. When she hires Cath and one day they both clean Helen’s house, she bashfully poses if Emily’s house is in a good shape, immediately after she feels “a guilt treachery to find herself so avidly curious about the true state of Emily’s house” (CC 467), Helen compares it with looking in windows from outside and not being able to suppress the tendency. However, Helen finally finds out about the situation at Emily’s house and feels a great relief to know that Emily’s fine house also carries scars and, furthermore, she is satisfied with Cath who seems to prefer her place to Emily’s. Another reason for the rivalry between Helen and Emily is revealed when Emily sacks Cath. Helen sees this act as very selfish and self-centered and rejects Emily’s behavior towards Cath. She describes Emily’s conduct:

Mothers run a closed book. They shut the world out, close off anything inconvenient, as if being mum in charge of a family is so self-justifying, so sanctifying, they never need have a conscience about anything else. […] Look at Emily. She’d put Cath in prison without a backward glance if it meant motherly peace of mind and, what’s more, she wouldn’t even regret it (CC 606).
Helen suddenly sees her best friend as a very narrow-minded woman who sticks only to her family duties and refuses to care for others who sometimes need more help. These two opposite attitudes – solidarity and rivalry – of the bonds of womanhood share a similar notion which brings the victimized and strong women together and at the same time it divides them.

Cath’s character lies in the middle between Helen and Emily, she works as a cleaning lady for other housewives, who fail to fulfill their domestic chores, however, she herself has her own home and husband to take care of. As a housewife, Cath embodies a perfect woman, who does all the necessary work at home, cares for her husband, her brother, and helps other women. However, her position in society being a member of her bond of womanhood is not ideal and she breaks the rules by killing her brother and then even her husband. She suffers from being a half mother, since she lost her baby with Damien. He means something evil and unpleasant to her because he used her inferiority and willingness, which led to Cath’s pregnancy and on the account of this, she becomes a very desperate and frustrated woman, who desires to revenge and free herself. Sharply put, Helen West, Emily Eliot and Cath Boyce impersonates various kinds of housewives who take their roles independently and behave in their own distinct ways.

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