The Nature of Murder
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Every crime should be punished, as modern system of laws claims. There may be situations when even murder can be justified but without punishment the idea of a fair society loses its sense. It is not only immoral to kill another person but it also harms the general well-being of people. Unfortunately, guilty people cannot be found in all cases, and even when there is such a possibility, murder can be so different that not every criminal should be strictly punished for it. The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Poe is a story of a cruel killing with no obvious reason. Conan Doyle describes a passion crime in his work The Adventure of Abbey Grange. What concerns justification, my view on crime and punishment is closer to the idea of the second author.
The lyrical hero of The Tell-Tale Heart cannot be justified based on logical reasoning. He admits that he treated his victim in a good way and has no motives except for the idée fixe about the eye of a poor old man. Even frank confession imposed by the burden of guilt does not save him in this case, for the sick satisfaction with the dismemberment process and the excitement of the hidden truth weigh more and allows no forgiveness. The story presented by Edgar Poe reveals a clear mental case. It is common knowledge that such transgressors are always made allowances for in the court, and sometimes are not punished at all. But one must realize that the innocent life was taken, and if nobody can be made responsible for it, at least medical isolation and, probably, compulsory treatment may prevent future thoughtless crimes. It is hard to understand the motives of the Poe’s personage, but since society has developed a stable way of dealing with such cases, the ultimate fairness can be restored. It may not be called a strict punishment, but it seems to be the only possible variant. If a culprit cannot give logical explanation to murder, overseers of social fairness must do it and take appropriate measures.
Passion crimes are a totally different case. They are committed in the state of the utter psychological tension when a person almost loses control over the actions. Murders like that are not elaborated, they are crude and cruel. The Adventure of Abbey Grange provides an example of such a killing. Here one may see an intricate pattern of lies, which in the end is revealed but somehow not punished for. The murderer killed a cruel person in the fit of rage, and the investigators fully realize that and do not impose the punishment. As far as I am concerned, there were other ways to revenge Sir Brackenstall for his actions, and it was a mistake of Holmes and Watson to leave Crocker unpunished. Taking someone’s life is always what it is. However, at least the motives of the Captain are clearer to me.
Another important issue is the inner workings of the minds of criminals. Whether they are revealed depends much on their actions. They seem to want to be caught and try to avoid it simultaneously. Most of them are very conscious of the outcomes of the crime, and it triggers the survival instinct in them. But a twisted mind works in a different way: something may continue bothering a murderer after his act so much that guilt starts to prevail over the wish to stay unpunished and alive, as it can be seen in the Poe’s story. Captain Crocker, Conan Doyle’s murderer, covers his tracks but does not intend to lie to the prosecutors. It should be mentioned that the fit of passion as the incentive of the murder is more obvious in the second story, while in the first one the killer has been thoroughly preparing for his act. Ironically, cruel as it may sound, Captain had a more understandable reason to kill. In such a way, on a certain absolute level the crime in The Adventure of Abbey Grange provides more causes to be justified than the one in The Tell-Tale Heart.
Two stories by prominent writers, as it is presupposed by their genre of detective stories, deal with issues of murder and punishment for it. They show that the actions and psychology of killers define whether they are revealed. A kind of paranoia-induced homicide and a partial self-protection are the poles of the issue, but society is always more favorable to those who at least take a life of a “bad person”. It does not mean that such a crime can be fully justified and forgiven, but it complies with social and moral norms to a greater extent than cruel elaboration.