Crime without Punishment

By Sullivan, Lucy | IPA Review, January 1, 1995 | Go to article overview

Crime without Punishment


Sullivan, Lucy, IPA Review


UNLIKE most contemporary novelists of manners, Margaret Drabble has, since the eighties, incorporated the burgeoning crime and social breakdown within the welfare state into her novels. But although she states the problem, she offers no real analysis.

One of the characters in her novel, A Natural Curiosity, reflecting on the increasing and increasingly horrific violence impinging on dwellers in middle-class London, notes with puzzlement that in her social milieu it had been believed that treating everyone, particularly the poor and the criminal, with greater generosity and kindliness--with the behaviour of love--would result in a happier and more peaceful society, whereas the opposite seemed to have occurred.

Doris Lessing's novel The Fifth Child is a parable expressing this same sense of paradox, that the wages of virtue are violence and the loss of civility. In the novel, a fifth child is born into an arena of domestic happiness, but, unlike the previous four children, he does not bring with him the incipient drives and responses which in their normal development construct and reconstruct the happy family: he does not react empathically to the needs and the pain of others, and the stuff of family life arouses in him no spark of grateful recognition. As he grows in strength and destructiveness, his presence becomes intolerable to the rest of the family. But his mother, because she believes so strongly in the virtues of loving and caring which sustain the family and human society, cannot allow his removal to an institution where he will be denied their benefit. Because she insists on making available the full benefits of family sustenance to a member who does not reciprocate, the family is destroyed.

KINDNESS TO CRIMINALS: Both Drabble and Lessing are writing from within a profoundly influential development in social thought of the sixties, in the English-speaking world at least--an endorsement of a psychological determinism which explains criminal or antisocial behaviour as determined by experience, either at the familial or societal level, of the iniquities of an oppressive and unjust political system. The policy implications of this belief are that criminal behaviour is not the fault of the perpetrator, and therefore should be treated beneficently; that kindness will cure criminals, while punishment cannot deter them; and that expenditure on social welfare, rather than on law enforcement, will result in a crime-free and domestically utopian society. Some aspects of this program, its prioritizing of forgiveness and love, have deep roots in the Christian tradition, while others--the profound belief in the existence of, and moral abhorrence of, entrenched social inequality and political oppression--express a more recent Marxism.

Drabble, in the same book, directs the reader to notice a moral disjunction in that a character who teaches literature to prison inmates is accepting, tolerant and forgiving of a serial murderer whose victims include one of her former students, but is intolerantly hostile towards some law-abiding acquaintances whose opinions, as conservatives, do not accord with her own.

The ideologically difficult postulation, glanced at by Drabble and powerfully but obliquely presented by Lessing--that love does not necessarily control violence, and that the abrogation of humane values may be necessary for their protection--is central to the recent play Death and the Maiden by Ariel Dorfman, although it is n approached even more eliptically than by either of these former authors. The play was performed by the Sydney Theatre Company in both Sydney and Perth in 1993 and is now released as a film (which I have not seen). It is set in a South American country which has recently emerged from a brutal dictatorship, and is now engaged in a program of recording the atrocities (torture and deaths) suffered during the reign of terror. The title is taken from a quartet by Schubert which was played to Paulina, the heroine of the play, during her torture, to sustain her spirits so that she would not die under interrogation.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Crime without Punishment
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.