Masaryk University Faculty of Arts Department of English and American Studies

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4.3Rendell’s Woman Victim

In Ruth Rendell’s Road Rage, female criminality rests in the background and the novel avoids introducing the feminine part in the main stream of the story, however, the text presents a female protagonist who struggles for the better world and environment, but she paradoxically becomes one of the hostages of the abductors that supposedly fight for the same environment protection. Dora happens to be actively engaged in opposing the construction, so much that she is also kidnapped. This captivity has a negative impact on the detective Inspector Wexford, her husband, but also brings to the case some considerable clues which play an important role in the investigation. When Dora returns home she must be interrogated. The first question mentions the place where the hostages are held but the abductors “were scrupulously careful about that from the very first” (RR 164) and Dora finds hard to speak about the road they took her and the place the others are kept now. While being kept as a hostage, Dora takes a special notice of the size and shape of everything in there to pick up some clues. She describes the room and the newly built washroom, the small window that was covered to block the view from it. Mrs. Wexford also speaks about the journey to that place and tries to imagine how long they drove her to that room. She invents names for the kidnappers and pictures them as much in details as possible. The questioning consists of hypnotizing too, which leads the police to another clue:

It’s amazing, Reg. I not only didn’t know I knew all that, I didn’t know I said it. Not till it was played back. And yet my voice sounds just like it always does.


I remember now, of course I do. But I don’t think I would have if I hadn’t been hypnotised. I could tell you all of it now or you could listen to the tape. What would you like?

(RR 248-9)
Dora speaks about the room again in the hypnosis when she is interrogated but mentions something more, certain “moving patches of blue” (RR 278) visible through the small peep-hole in the window. At first, it seems completely useless and the blue stuff fails to give some more hints to the case. But eventually, the blue turns out to be a type of plant, Morning Glory, whose flowers “get out in one patch one day and then different lot out on a higher patch another day” (RR 362). Wexford finds places where this plant grows and finally also the house where the hostages were held. Morning Glory forms one of the clues that help him to identify the building but he needs more of them to get to this point and to the end of the investigation.

As Rowland claims, the novel demonstrates “the 1990s British phenomenon of eco-warriors in alliance with middle-class environmental campaigners” (Rowland 25) in which the female protagonist has a significant role. Either as the victimized person who basically identifies with the abductors’ intentions or as the material witness since she spends some time with the kidnappers and can recall some significant facts about the people, place, and surroundings. While being kept as a hostage, Dora behaves like a heroine and strives to keep the other kidnapped people as calm as possible. Inspector Wexford knows his wife and thinks that “she would be sensible, practical, she had a great sense of humour and she would make it her business to comfort those young people. If they were all together, the five of them” (RR 96), he supposes that they are kept all together in one place as he gets to know when Dora is released. The peacemaking part falls beneath the authority of Dora Wexford and she succeeds in it; not only as a settler at the abductors’ place, but also as a composer of the situation itself after returning home and being conducive to the investigation.

Being one of the victims, Dora personifies a very carefully chosen captive. The Struthers get to know that she is the wife of the so called ‘Great Detective’, Chief Inspector Wexford, and by letting her go home they intend to reveal their identity since they want to retain their beautiful cottage. The abductors suppose that Dora will lead the police to the place with the hostages but before that happens, they make sure their requirements are met. On this account the Struthers represent only fake kidnappers who desire to maintain peaceful negotiations and do not want anyone to get injured or even killed. Unfortunately, one person among the hostages dies. It is Roxane Masood, a half-Indian young girl with magical beauty, “her face was a perfect oval, her forehead high, her nose small and straight, her eyes huge and black with arched eyebrows, her hair a gleaming black veil, long, centre-parted, water-straight and fine as silk” (RR 63). She is a victim to the severe punishment of her behavior while being kept. The kidnappers know only a little about their captives and fail to recognize that Roxane is claustrophobic since her childhood when her grandmother punished her for something and shut her “in a cupboard […] when she was a toddler” (RR 210). Roxane’s psychological defect causes a great misfortune because the abductors lock her in a separate room and furthermore put over her head a hood which is fatal for her. She manages to say “goodbye, Dora, through the hood” (RR 226) while being haled off and Dora never sees her again. Only then the police find a dead body wrapped in a brown-and-green sleeping bag at the Contemporary Cars’ trailer.

Roxane epitomizes one of the victims that mingle throughout the story and beside Dora, characterizes the female captive, the young girl under pressure who becomes the victim of the Struthers’ evil kidnap and her own psychological disease. Both women behave as the real heroines who want to know why they are kidnapped, but only one of them possesses the strength and persistence to stay alive. Indeed, Dora, being Wexford’s wife, gets the opportunity to leave earlier and avoids coping with the fearful and wicked environment at the small room with other victims. Roxane’s marked recalcitrance in being kept as one of the hostages leads to her death.

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