[lit-ideas] Re: Murder in two cultures

  • From: "Carol Kirschenbaum" <carolkir@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 12 Apr 2007 14:53:37 -0700

Norman, hello!
I'm not sure about this, but possibly Jean Harris, who murdered her "diet 
doctor" longterm lover, might qualify. She admitted the murder. To me, the 
movie was quite compelling. Her worst punishment, as she saw it, was now 
having to live without him. Seems rather French--that is, tragically 
civilized--to me. Sad and stupid revenge of the semi-dumped 
mistress-who-would-be-wife, in her dreams. But what's a "passion killing" 
but love's stupidity carried to its inane extreme?

Usually, though, the killer scrambles away in a total frenzy. Harris's style 
wasn't frenzied. She felt that her life was over when she realized her 
lover, her life, was dead. Herein lies the pathos.

Perhaps it's less likely that American men in love would feel like this. 
American women, like French women (European women, in general), have had a 
near-total emotional and financial investment in the men they've been with 
(married or not), along with the uncommon societal freedom to walk away, if 
they so desired--or run away with someone else. Without this possibility, 
there'd be no Emma Bovary, no Anna Karenina, no Constance Chatterly. 
Interestly, the male authors felt obliged to punish their heroines, in the 
end. That D. H. Lawrence let Chatterly live, and presumably thrive, 
warranted the book's extended censorship.

I sense that the "honorable" domestic, literary murderer believes he has 
"higher" motives than love or love's rejection. Namely, machismo. If his 
lover rejects him, then she may have no one (so there!). Such egotism isn't 
celebrated in the U.S., or throughout Europe, to my knowledge.

However, I came across a similar theme--breaking the law for a higher 
principle, and being proud of it--on NPR, a few days ago. A fellow refuses 
to pay a portion of his taxes, protesting the war, and US militarism in 
general. He includes a note to the IRS with his tax form every year, 
explaining exactly what percentage he is withholding from the IRS, and why. 
To date, he's not been hassled, arrested, etc. But Americans think more 
about money than love.


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