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Sunday, 31 January 2010

John Steinbeck - The Murder


The Murder


John Ernst Steinbeck was born in Salinas, California, on February 27, 1902 of German and Irish ancestry. His father, John Steinbeck, Sr., served as the County Treasurer while his mother, Olive (Hamilton) Steinbeck, a former school teacher, fostered Steinbeck's love of reading and the written word. During summers he worked as a hired hand on nearby ranches, nourishing his impression of the California countryside and its people.

After graduating from Salinas High School in 1919, Steinbeck attended Stanford University. Originally an English major, he pursued a program of independent study and his attendance was sporadic. During this time he worked periodically at various jobs and left Stanford permanently in 1925 to pursue his writing career in New York. However, he was unsuccessful in getting any of his writing published and finally returned to California.
His first novel, Cup of Gold was published in 1929, but attracted little attention. His two subsequent novels, The Pastures of Heaven and To a God Unknown, were also poorly received by the literary world.

Steinbeck married his first wife, Carol Henning in 1930. They lived in Pacific Grove where much of the material for Tortilla Flat and Cannery Row was gathered. Tortilla Flat (1935) marked the turning point in Steinbeck's literary career. It received the California Commonwealth Club's Gold Medal for best novel by a California author. Steinbeck continued writing, relying upon extensive research and his personal observation of the human condition for his stories. The Grapes of Wrath (1939) won the Pulitzer Prize.

During World War II, Steinbeck was a war correspondent for the New York Herald Tribune. Some of his dispatches were later collected and made into Once There Was a War.

John Steinbeck was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962 “...for his realistic as well as imaginative writings, distinguished by a sympathetic humor and a keen social perception.”

Analyzing John Steinbeck’s “The Murder” makes the reader experience fixed feelings. As John Steinbeck himself is known to be an extraordinary writer his story “The Murder” completely confirms this belief. The story mainly deals with the contraposition of the image of a man and the image of a woman. The author of the story makes the woman lag behind and blindly obey man’s orders. She fulfills her duties without showing any emotional response to the occurring. It is a story of a married couple where the wife is a “foreigner” to her husband.

"The Murder" by John Steinbeck - Summary Essay

From the very beginning the author reveals the woman as a submissive being and a man as a “ruling one”. This starts with Jim Moore picking a wife not on the basis of emotionally touching relations, true devotion or respect of the girl’s family but on the basis of the appearance of Jelka Sepic: “Jim was not proud of her foreign family, of her many brothers and sisters and cousins, but was delighted in her beauty”[Steinbeck, p.2]. Jelka is presented like a “good” that fits Jim’s demands as a buyer. One of the Jelka’s qualities the author makes an emphasis on her ability to be a brilliant housekeeper and nothing is said about her personality. Jelka serves as a “maid” to her husband. She just learned his habits and he did not do anything really to make an emotional connection with her, as it was all he needed for the first time. For Jim, Jelka is just a “Jugo-Slav girl”[Steinbeck, p.2], a girl from another culture he decided to marry and nothing more than that. He treats her as an inanimate object and this becomes the reason she acts like one, too. Galaghard in his analysis of the story gives an excellent interpretation of the author’s attitude towards Jelka –“She, as Steinbeck puts it, is really so much like an animal. Like a domesticated pet, she trains to do tricks for her master to receive attention, acclaim, and regard”[Galaghard, p.1]. In fact Jim completely suppresses her and sometimes gets irritated with her like with a pet. Galaghard’s interpretation gains a new life in the context of Jim’s further behavior. It reminds a lot of the formation of a conditioned reflex. After Jim finds Jelka in bed with her cousin he just punishes her like a “bad pet” and comes back to normal living because he is just so used to this “pet”. Now the “pet” knows that it will be punished for any “misbehavior”. Jim does not get into the Jelka’s feelings, because there is not need to ask a “pet” about its feelings especially when it keeps “moving its tail”. This story can be hardly called a love story, as it has nothing to do with love. “Difference is not only in love and in the manner of loving, but now also in being human versus subhuman”, - and in this case a subhuman is Jelka [Fensch, p.15]. Jelka is not as weak-willed as the author tries to depict her, she is just doing everything the way it was done by her parents and grandparents. Jim accepts her as a silent housekeeper and does not require more than that from a woman and does not actually do anything to change it except preferring to spend the evenings in another company. Jelka is truly a subhuman; a useful object in the house and no surprise Jim “patted her head and neck under the same impulse that made him stroke a horse”[Steinbeck, p.3]. The author reveals half-hidden anti-feminist thoughts, which make the reader percept Jelka as a mediocrity. In reality men like Jim and Jelka’s father primarily create this mediocrity.

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