Wednesday 8 December 2010

U is for Uxoricide - Mrs Denise Nesbitt's ABC-Wedneday - Round 7 - U

Photo source: Wikipedia

I usually choose very well-known common words for the alphabet-memes that I participate in. But this time I've decided to write about an unusual word for this week's edition of Mrs Denise Nesbitt's ABC-Wednesday, Round 7-U. My U-word is 'Uxoricide', which means (according to the Oxford dictionary for advanced learners) '(law) the crime of killing your wife; a man who is guilty of this crime.' I think it is a horrible thing, a man killing his wife. But it happens in real life, and not just in far off places. I know of a case in my own home town. But real murders are too terrible to write about on a G-rated blog. Fiction is bad enough. So instead of writing about real cases, I have two examples of fictional uxoricide: Shakespeare's Othello and Alfred Hitchcock's film, Rear Window. (Click on the titles to get more detailed information from Wikipedia)

Photo source: Wikipedia

Shakespeare wrote Othello, the Moor of Venice around 1603, inspired by an Italian short story 'Un Capitano Moro' ('A Moorish Captain') by Cinthio, written 1565.

Photo source: Wikipedia

This is a story about Othello, a Moorish general in the Venician army who secretly marries
Desdemona, the daughter of a Venician Senator named Brabantio. All would be fine if different other characters in this play, had not fooled and manipulated Othello into believing that his bride was unfaithful to him. False proof was laid out and instead of trusting Desdemona, Othello strangles her to death in a jealous rage. Afterwards, when Othello learns the truth, that Desdemona was innocent, he takes his own life.

There are several themes in this play, such as racism, love, jealousy, and betrayal; all of which have helped it survive as a dramatic text. For this post, it is enough to say that Othello is an example of fictional uxoricide.

Photo source: Wikipedia

The Russian actor and theatre practitioner
Constantin Stanislavski as Othello in 1896.

Photo source: Wikipedia

Photo source: Wikipedia

Photo source: Wikipedia


The play Othello takes us directly into a marriage that has problems and ends tragically. My next exemple of fictional uxoricide is easier to digest because it is shown within the gently humourous framework of a couple who seem to have a happy future before them. My second example is the very well-known Alfred Hitchcock film, Rear Window, which is considered to be one of his very best films. The plot and suspense work perfectly.

Photo source: Wikipedia

Rear Window from 1954, is based on "It Had to Be Murder", a short story from 1942 by Cornell Woolrich. The film is about a professional photographer, L. B. "Jeff" Jeffries (James Stewart), who is confined to a wheel-chair, while recuperating with a broken leg after an accident.

Photo source: Wikipedia

Jefferies is restless and has too little to do to help him pass the time in his small Greenwich Village-apartment during a long summer heatwave that makes all of his neighbours leave their windows and curtains open to reduce the heat; but also reveal their daily activities. As time goes by Jefferies, who was only recently a very active photographer, thinks he sees things that seem to point to that one of his neighbours (played by Raymond Burr) has murdered his wife. Jefferies trys to convince his girlfriend (Grace Kelly) and his home-care nurse, Stella (Thelma Ritter), but they don't believe him - at first.

Photo source: Wikipedia

I don't want to spoil the enjoyment of this excellent film for those who have not yet seen it and plan to do so. The description in the Wikipedia-link is well-written and very detailed, so do not read it if you plan to see it.
But if you have already seen the movie, please read on. (Take a look at Wikipedia's article here):

Photo source: Wikipedia

Why would a man want to kill his wife? In the case of Jefferies neighbours, the woman is an invalid and her husband takes care of her. Perhaps this is the reason he cannot divorce her. A good observation made by the authors at Wikipedia is that the couple that Jefferies watches, is a mirror-picture of himself and his girlfriend, while his leg is mending, as she is taking care of him. With the neighbours, the Thorwalds, it is the opposite.

A very personal reflection about this story is that the villian's name is Lars Thorwald. The first time my mother and I saw this film together, we felt so embarassed and ashamed because the wife-murderer had a Swedish or Scandinavian-sounding name. There are tons of Hollywood films in which the villians have other kinds of names, that have nothing to do with us. But here was this guy named Lars (my nephew's first name), whose name Alfred Hitchcock or Cornell Woolrich thought was foreign enough or strange enough to be a psychopath. Raymond Burr's Lars Thorwald even sounded like he had a slight Swedish accent!

Just as Othello is a play with several themes, Rear Window is also many-faceted, and not just about a man murdering his wife. It is also about watching snippets of other people's lives. It's about 'voyeurism'. But if Jeffries hadn't been so patiently observant, Mr Thorwald might have gotten away with murder.

There is much more to be said about the word 'uxoricide'; if you would like to learn more, please go to this page. I don't have anything else to add, other than that I hope you never ever need to use such a word! (Unless you are writing a mystery story!)

Best wishes,

Please take a peek at my very belated T-post here.

First Commenter:
Paula Scott
Molokai Girl

Second Commenter:
Roger Owen Green
Ramblin' with Roger

Third Commenter:
Cezar and Léia of
Bonjour Luxembourg

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