Claudia Valentine’s Distinctive Voice and Character Analysis Claudia Valentine, being the protagonist of The Life and Crimes of Harry Lavender, has been successfully developed in the text to both support and subvert the stereotype of a male hard-boiled detective, where she is portrayed as a female private detective who inheres the traditional characteristics of a tough talking male detective but also presenting feminist points of view.
Thus the author, Marele Day has created this powerful distinctive voice of Claudia’s in the text so that it can connect and appeal to the reader.Day plays with the gender stereotype in the opening scene, making the reader assume the protagonist is a male. Day has Claudia describing Jack Daniels, overflowing ashtrays, a good looking nameless blond in bed, the situation of a hangover and the messy flat surrounded by scattered clothes are all things stereotypically associated to a single male. This is not until the reader identifies the blond to be a ‘him’, where one becomes aware she is female. Day has manipulated the traditional figure to suit her female protagonist.
[caption id="attachment_23223" align="alignright" width="406"] Claudia Valentine[/caption]The reader also learns further into the text that Claudia is a divorced woman, living in Sydney, who has left her children in the care of her ex-husband, now living in the country. Claudia however, lives hard. She lives above a pub, eats pub food, drinks hard alcohol and judging from the one night stand and conditions of her flat, the reader is able to tell that she is liberated – has no steady relationships, is rather aloof and a self-reliant woman.
Another factor that Day is suggesting through the association of masculine iconography and language to Claudia is the fact that she is strong and competent. As the reader finds a woman in typically a men’s job, the portrayal of her behaving like one proves that she’s more than capable to do her job well. Unlike other typical private detectives, Claudia doesn’t carry a gun, instead she is a karate expert – ‘my legs are my best weapon’ – implying a sense that Claudia is capable of violence but does not abuse it.Also despite being tall and red-headed, there are very little references as to her physical appearance but from the way Day has chosen to portray Claudia, the reader is still able to feel her strong and imposing figure. This reminds the readers of the dangerous nature of Claudia’s profession, especially as she notes that the ‘crims don’t discriminate anyway.
They’ll blow away a woman on their trail as readily as a man. ’ Day uses various language techniques to typify Claudia’s istinctive voice and character. In addition, Claudia’s voice is also typified by her use of masculine, hard-core expressions and tough talk we associate with the stereotype. She has a twisted sense of humour and speaks of crass and crude imaging such as someone ‘pounding my brain like a two year old who’s just discovered a hammer…’ or ‘haemorrhaging from the eyes…’ and when she encounters Sally Villos in the sauna, Sally is shocked by her violent and menacing language: ‘You’re a woman!How can you talk like that! ’ this masculinity in her voice further emphasises her strength, ruthlessness and physical prowess. Another example of language techniques would be the use of short, abrupt, clipped sentence.
This minimalizing style of speaking reflects her emotionless and unsentimental values towards tasks and people, illustrated in the lines: ‘Close by the bed was a bottle of Jack Daniels: empty.And an ashtray: full’ and in many of her conversations with people, she would often allow others to speak with her rarely commenting for more than a sentence which is a useful approach for her line of work as this allows her to obtain information from others efficiently. She’s is highly educated – being a graduate from Sydney Girls High and has a university Arts degree with honours – yet she speaks in a colloquial form. Nevertheless, the lack of formality in her language not only makes her voice believable and appeals to the reader but also suggesting she is capable of being manipulative with her use of words.
For example, at times she seems to shun small talk, which is shown when she and the florist kept the ‘social patter down to a minimum’, keeping their conversation to no more than two words; as opposed to her deliberately orchestrate her language to encourage people to speak to her, such as when she meets Mrs Levack, Claudia mimicks phrasing in crime television shows: ‘Good evening, Mrs Levack, I’m Claudia Valentine, private investigator’ as she detects Mrs Levack’s enthusiasm for intelligence work and she knows it will intrigue Mrs Levack into helping her.Other approaches Claudia takes include her adopting a sympathetic and caring tone to coerce others to talk, ‘trying to get her guard down’; or even exploiting her sexual appeals to suit her purpose. This demonstrates how Claudia is methodical in means of obtaining what she wants. Furthermore, Claudia is rather cynical, as she states, ‘It is only money.
Everything has its price’ when she describes the real underlying seediness of Bondi Beach. Cynicism is also emphasised in her conversation with Steve Angell: ‘It’s a question of money, that’s all.That’s all it ever is, isn’t it? ’ Apart from being so pessimistic, Claudia is quick, perspective and observant and her language is constantly sprinkled with puns and cryptic references as she enjoys ‘the way cryptics made your mind jump sideways’. We can tell she is a determined and astute character despite some of the negativity. Ultimately, it clear that the character, Claudia Valentine is a product of the city that Day has taken many opportunities in depicting throughout the text.
The city is not pristine and neither is Claudia.It has made her into who she is, forced to adopt a masculine, tough facade to survive in her world and disguising the feminine, softer and vulnerable side of her character. This is evident in the scene where she realises the depth of trouble she is in and is shaken with the thought of herself or her children being murdered. Therefore In conclusion, Day has created Claudia Valentine, a distinctive voice using an intriguing mixture of masculine and feminine images and language in which shapes the reader’s response to the text.
Claudia’s voice has been successfully composed to build a connection between and the reader. Alice Yu