Things change


The house at Cherry Hill

Abigail points out the familiarity of the Strang/Whipple murder, connecting it to The Canterbury Tales. I was reminded of a movie from the 90s, To Die For, based on Pamela Smart case. I guess it’s an age-old situation. Murder by Gaslight has further details on Strang and Whipple and Cherry Hill, as does Wikipedia.

cunninghamGloriana was interested, like me, in the rather unflattering descriptions of Rachel Cunningham in the Swearingen story. Murder by Gaslight paints a somewhat different picture of her. It makes me wonder about the authorship and motivations behind the Swearingen story. There is a lengthier document online that gives Swearingen’s side of things. I haven’t read it, but the fourth page has multiple people certifying its authenticity. We see the same thing in modern days, where stories get reported in the news, then dramatized in the media, as in the Smart case.

These two stories come from 1827/1828, about fifty years into US history, in places that would have been western frontier in the colonial days. What do these narratives tell us about the way things were at particular times and about the changes going on over time?

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One Response to Things change

  1. Jim Groom says:

    I love the idea you are referring to as crime as a referent to the civilizing process happening in relationship to the establishment of nation-state. Much of what we are focusing on right now is about jsut that—how does the revolution (which is the backdrop fro most of the America’s Bloody Register) give way to both the barbaric preervation of slavery and the emerging Victorian impulse to civilize at once. That contradiction seems to me at the heart of 19th century culture, and the short story by Stephen Crane’s “A Bride Comes to Yellow Sky” really gets at that contradiction beautiufully, albeit later in the century.

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