Unsettling Thoughts On A Tragic Death Made Symbolic
Like many others I've been following a Connecticut murder case involving a pretty young woman whose body was found stuffed in a wall on the day she was supposed to be married. Just as I was starting to think up a blog post about my shame in this voyeurism, about all the disappearances and murders that aren't covered by the national media or cared about by so many, articles started popping up in Google News to that very effect. The comments section of this article
, while disturbing, got me thinking about what draws our attention to certain tragic stories, and it made me think about old Aristotle and the classic tragic hero. So the question is, are we gruesomely fascinated by Annie Le because she was "true to life and yet more beautiful," because her plot was "of a certain magnitude"? I teach my students about Oedipus, Macbeth, Antigone. Do we find it so hard to look away because it's scary that this could happen to someone so high up on the social ladder? Does it make us feel more vulnerable? Or is there some creeping schadenfreude that reassures us that intelligence, beauty, money and power don't insulate people from random cruelty and violence? That wants to generate some rationale, some narrative, to show that she must have had some hubris, done something
to cause this, that it couldn't have been so random, so violent? That wants to see how the mighty have fallen? Here is a woman who was killed. She is one of many who are not so roundly mourned but also not so roundly analyzed. She is not one of many but only herself, and irreplaceable.