The case of Lizzie Borden is considered to be one of the most gruesome during the 19th century. The trial started in June 1983, during which Lizzie Borden was accused of murdering her father, Andrew Jackson Borden, and her stepmother, Abby Durfee Borden. At the end of the trial that lasted for several days, Lizzie was acquitted and gained certain recognition among people: some people still believed that she was a murder, and some people were sure that Lizzie had nothing in common with those terrible murders.
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Lots of literary works were devoted to that case, and Angela Carter’s piece of writing, The Fall River Axe Murders, is one of those literary masterpieces, which provide the reader with a chance to learn deeper the case and analyze it from several perspectives. Angela Carter underlines that Lizzie’s guilt was obvious, and Lizzie Borden made an attempt to create a kind of account of life in her household.
But still, this author presents such an oppressive beginning and keeps the same style till the end of the story. By means of different evidences, Angela Carter represents both implicit and explicit arguments to prove that it was Lizzie Borden, who killed her father and stepmother, and even the weather served as reliable proof that Lizzie would be a murder.
Angela Carter was one of the British writers, whose works were characterized by such issues like fantasy and sexuality. However, her The Fall River Axe Murders is not about sexuality and fantasy, it is about the real events, which happened at the end of the 19th century, where the case of Lizzie Borden was concerned. From the very first lines of her story, Angela Carter tried to use evidences rather effectively in order to underline Lizzie’s guilt and participation in willful homicide.
To my mind, all these evidences are more 1:10 than 10:1, because in spite of the fact that all the evidences, which could prove Lizzie’s guilt, were discussed and analyzed, and Lizzie could not do anything harmful to people, especially something like a murder. However, some of the evidences make me change my mind or, at least, pay to them my attention and analyze the situation from some other perspectives.
First of all, from the very beginning, I realize that something not common for ordinary life should happen: “Hot, hot, hot. Even thought it is early in the morning, well before the factory whistle issues its peremptory summons from the dark, satanic mills to which the city owes its present pre-eminence in the cotton trade” (Carter, 131).
I am always interested in and involved into discussions, which prove that the weather presages some changes. This is why the idea that something bad should happen, something that can burn the things, the mind, and the soul. So, I truly believe that weather condition may serve as the first implicit argument.
Another strong point that may explain the possibility of Lizzie’s participation in murders is the relations between her and her stepmother Abby:
She used to call her stepmother “mother,” as duty babe, but after a quarrel about money after her father deeded half a slum property to her stepmother five years before, Lizzie always, with cool scrupulosity, spoke of “Mrs. Borden” when she was forced to speak of her and called her “Mrs. Borden” to her face, too. (Carter,146).
Of course, problems with the relations may be one of the reasons to hate or disrespect a person, but still, this factor cannot be the major one for committing homicide. This is why I take into account this argument and its effective use, but still, I find it rather implicit in comparison to the following.
A day before, Lizzie Borden tried to buy prussic acid, it is a kind of poison for people. Her attempt to buy this poison failed, so, the next day, her father and stepmother were not poisoned but killed. On the one hand, the fact that 32-year old woman was eager to buy a poison and was at home when the murders took place made lots of people to blame Lizzie for the murders, this is why these two facts in investigation may be used as rather explicit arguments.
However, on the other hand, it is possible to imagine that it was just a dream of Lizzie: she did not like her stepmother, she could not agree to father’s decision to leave money to that woman, and she had many reasons to think about a kind of revenge. Lots of people can say “I kill you” just in order to express indignation or pain, but still, these words and dreams do not make each person a killer. Therefore, having a dream to kill and even having a plan to do it cannot serve as the evidence of murder.
In this book, I like the approach, chosen by Angela Carter, most of all: she wrote about the murder, its motives, and methods, but still, she did not describe the very process. To my mind, such inability to reproduce the murder as it was and, at the same time, blame a person, who was already acquitted, for murders of own family are not enough to convince the reader and prove Lizzie’s blame.
If you ask me whether I believe that Lizzie Borden is guilty or not, I answer that I am still one of those, who do not believe in this idea. Without any doubts, Lizzie had some thoughts as for possible death of her parents, but anyway, she did not want to kill and deprive her father of his life.
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Angela Carter introduced a kind of “a study in repression related under the shadow of the inevitable foreknowledge both reader and author share which attempts to restore historical specificity to the familiar narrative” (Gamble, 159).
Attention to different details like weather and personal appearance, description of social position of the family, information about the relations between the members of the family – all this can serve as proper evidences to demonstrate Carter’s positions and attitude to Lizzie. These arguments also help a bit to comprehend that not only Lizzie had the reasons for those murders. This is why for someone, these arguments may be rather convincing, as for me, I still believe that Lizzie is not guilty, and the decision of the court was correct.
Carter, Angela. “The Fall River Axe Murders.” Academic Discourse: Readings for Argument and Analysis by Gail Stygall. Ohio:Thomson Learning Custom Publishing, 2002.
Gamble, Sarah. The Fiction of Angela Carter. Cambridge: Icon Books Ltd., 2001