Striving for autonomy : representative female characters in the detective novels of P. D. James : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in English at Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand
Representative female characters from several of P D James's detective novels are used to exemplify the changes in women's position in society during the four decades (from the early 1960s to the late 1990s) which span James's publishing career and which coincide with the period known as the second wave of feminism. Women characters have always taken a prominent place in P D James's detective fiction, and since the 1970s her books have increasingly foregrounded the problems that women have when working in male-dominated professions, revealing their increasing autonomy but also disclosing the continuing limitations of that autonomy. Her novels are acknowledged as becoming increasingly literary. In her early novels James followed the formula of the classic detective fiction genre quite closely. During the 1970s she experimented with novels that on the surface read as detective novels, while functioning subtextually in relation to myths and metaphors. In her most recent works she transcends the genre, using the detective formula simply as a framework for her novels of literary realism.