The Ultimate Betrayal:
Cordelia Gray, Ronald Callender, and the Establishment of an Anti-heroin
In the contemporary literary scene, heroes enjoy an increased moral complexity. Mid-20th century playwrights such as Samuel Beckett and Tom Stoppard have given viewers anti-heroic protagonists recognizable by their lack of identity and determination. Film noir detective stories of the mid-20th century have seen characters such as Sam Spade, who lacked the glorious appeal of previous heroic figures, become popular. Influenced by a post modern sensibility, many modern antiheroes possess, or even encapsulate, a rejection of traditional values symptomatic of Modernist literature in general, as well as the disillusion felt toward the totalizing assumptions inherent in the traditional or modern hero. The continuing popularity of the antihero in modern literature and popular culture is based on a postmodern recognition that persons are fraught with human frailties, unlike the archetype of the noble warrior, and is therefore more accessible to readers and viewers.
In the postmodern era, traditionally defined heroic qualities, akin to the classic "knight in shining armor" types, have given way to morally questionable, but ultimately well intended protagonists that battle unspeakably evil villains. In the novel An Unsuitable Job for a Woman, Cordelia Gray—a morally ambiguous, intuitive, non-traditional detective--can only be understood as the novel’s protagonist by contrasting her with Ronald Callender--a misogynistic, homophobic, psychopath that murders his own son—in order for the reader to set aside Cordelia’s witnessing and covering up Callender’s murder.
From the very start of the novel we come to understand that Cordelia is non-traditional detective in every sense of the word. The novel begins with young Cordelia walking into the office she shares with detective Bernie Pryde only to find her partner dead (James, 14). He slashed his wrist after...