The Murder By John Steinbeck

"The Murder"

"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

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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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