The Murder By John Steinbeck Essay, Research Paper
“The Murder” by John Steinbeck is a classic look at life in the rural United
States in the early nineteenth century. This story is a tale of a man and his wife from a foreign
country, and the differences of their cultures. Irony is very prominent in this story, and it helps to
illustrate a very poignant point on the anti-feminism during the time of the story. At this time,
spousal abuse was not uncommon, and was pretty much standard practice. However, “The
Murder” is neither pro-feminist or anti-feminist.
This story is not written with a bias, yet it is a commentary on the socialism of
the time, and allows the reader to be the judge of whether it is right or wrong. Jelka and Jim are
from two completely different cultures, this is evident in their behavior and attitudes. Jim is
social, while Jelka is under the impression that women’s job is to be a slave to her husband.
Jelka has been taught that women should be seen and not heard. Jim cheats on his wife on
Saturday nights with prostitutes, when he thinks she is home alone. But little does he know that
she too, is having an affair, this is an example of irony. When Jim discovers his wife in bed with
her cousin, he is quite upset. He begins by firing a bullet into the head of her cousin, and then
whipping her. Jim gets off for the murder, as cases such as that were usually dismissed in that
Jim was not the type to abuse his wife, and never had he whipped her until the
morning after the incident. This was unlike him because he never had beaten her before this.
After the incident, they continue their normal life together, and move further down the canyon so
they can put this behinf them. Jim was not an anti-feminist man, he does not beat his wife or put
her down emotionally. However, he goes into town and cheats on her with prostitutes. He thinks
that his wife is clueless to his actions, but she knows that when he is sleeping out he is being
unfaithful. He was also under the impression that she just sits home by herself watching the stars.
Jim believes that there is a double standard, that it is fine for him to cheat, but
not her. Even though he treats his wife good, he still whips her for something he was also doing.
However, This is not an anti-feminist story. Throughout the story Jim condemns the anti-
feminism of the time, until he catches her in bed with another man. The story illustrates the point
that this marriage was ill-fated from the very beginning. These two people are from very different
cultures, and both have different ideas of how husbands and wives should act. They have no
control over these forces, and the marriage suffers from it. “He realized before long that he could
not get in touch with her in any way. If she had a life apart, it was so remote as to be beyond his
reach.” (page 4, “The Murder”, Steinbeck). Jim wants a wife he can talk to, but Jelka thinks she
is his property and should just cook, clean, and have sex with him when he wants.
In closing, this story is not anti-feminist or pro-feminist. “The Murder” is a view
of life in Monterey Country, California. The story is powerful, and describes the married life of
two mismatched lovers. The two have little in common, and by growing up in different cultures,
they could make little connection. In the end, however, they put it behind them. They move out
of that house, and begin in a new life with them. This story has a happy ending.
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