P.D James' The Skull Beneath the Skin, is a crime fiction text that really encodes many of the traditional social values in Britain. James' plays around with gender roles as well as class systems. These all play an important part in the novel as they allow our protagonist to solve the crime in the end. Even though the crime is solved, there is no clear solution to the other problems and corruption that surrounds the novel.
The protagonist of the novel is Cordelia Gray, a private investigator. Because the protagonist of the novel is female, clearly P.D James is trying to make a statement about traditional gender roles. For Cordelia, being a woman, she is constantly questioned as to whether her job is 'a suitable job for a woman?' She, being a woman, becomes the reason as to her lack of experience as she is never put on a proper case.
People assume that because she is a woman, she is unable to 'cope with a man's job'.
"The envelope in her pocket confirmed that the job was real..."
The fact that she needs this kind of reassurance shows her excitement and the rarity of being put on a real case. Even though she is inexperienced, she shows how capable she is doing a man's task. In the beginning of the novel, Sir George refers to Cordelia as an 'amateur' but then comes to realize, that he may have 'underestimated' Cordelia. This very clearly shows how men view women. James uses the death of Clarissa to clearly contradict Sir George's initial thoughts of Cordelia's incapabilities. Clearly, Cordelia was very able in controlling Clarissa's death. She was not rash in her decision making and she clearly knows what is going on.
"Cordelia told herself that none of this proved...