Sentimentalizing Serial Murder

In City Journal Dalrymple sees a cultural shift in the differing attitudes expressed in books by Marian Partington, sister of a murder victim, and Winifred Young, sister of a murderer:

Oddly enough, this constant focus [by Partington] on herself is carried out in the name of the reduction of ego: “The movement towards comprehension is neither logical or straightforward. Essentially it involves becoming less self-centered, which makes space for the experience for oneself and others. It involves getting out of the way. Ultimately it may involve becoming forgiving.” And, of course, the first person to be forgiven is herself: “It was necessary to dissolve my own grief and anger and find compassion for myself before opening up to the possibility of forgiving those who caused this terrible pain.”

[By contrast] Winifred Young’s reaction (and that of her family) to her brother’s first trial, in 1962, was of exemplary clarity: “Even we, his family, persons who were more emotionally affected by it all; the ones who more than any others in the world, were reluctant to see him put behind bars, felt that this was the only right thing to do with him.” This response is sophisticated compared with Partington’s pseudo-spiritual maunderings. Not only is it far from the vengefulness that Partington ignorantly supposes is the only alternative to forgiveness; it clearly draws a distinction, as Partington does not, between the private sphere of the emotions and the public sphere of policy.

4 thoughts on “Sentimentalizing Serial Murder

  1. Rachel

    I have been away from the internet for a long time so it was lovely to be able to go on your blog and find new TD articles. This essay is one of the best I have read in a long time.

  2. Steve

    Rachel, I found your comment intriguing. I can’t help but wonder: What constitutes “a long time” away from the internet and what might the reason be? It’s none of my business of course. Anyway, welcome back.

  3. Rachel

    In my case a week away from the internet is a long time. 🙂 I had a fever from a severe throat infection and was incapable of reading for a while so did not go on the internet.
    It is funny how just under a week feels like an eon without the internet now, yet so many of us grew up for years without it.


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