Elaine discussed revenge as a motive for murder. I’m looking at greed.
Theodore Dreiser depicted greed for money and possessions in his novels. He showed men and women who started life poor and were determined to do what it took to acquire wealth. He was criticized in his day for showing people who sinned and weren’t punished. Today, even though readers might want good to triumph over evil, they don’t expect automatic punishment for wrongdoing. Wasn’t greed considered good in the eighties, especially in the stock market?
Dreiser showed women as eager as men to rise in the world, using others to acquire what they wanted and putting money above morality. These women didn’t dream of worshipping an all-American football star, and spending their lives in domestic bliss, cooking, raising children, and remaining pretty for their bread winners. I think there has to be luxury and wealth before there can be sheltered women who don’t have to work hard at home and/or outside the home to achieve what they want.
When I studied Dreiser, I thought his novels were too long but he told a good story and his characters rang true. Most of my fellow students didn’t like Dreiser or American Realism and Naturalism so why did I enjoy the course?
One of my nursing instructors said, and I paraphrase, there are those who see the glass half full and those who see the glass half empty, and then there are the realists like Pauline who see the glass and think eventually someone’s going to have to wash that glass. I might be a realist at work but not in my writing.
The problem with greed as a motive is that any sleuth worth his keep would ask who stands to gain. A greedy person did not necessarily commit the crime and can be used as a red herring in a story.
I’ve never had to worry about one of my siblings inheriting more than me. In wealthy families, wanting the largest piece of the pie and wanting it fast could be an issue. Again, the motive is transparent. A writer would have to provide twists and subplots to obscure the final guilty person.
Then there’s the real out and out greed of cannibalism and Hannibal Lecter. Lions kill a zebra to feed a pride. A cheetah kills a gazelle to feed her three cubs. Lone animal hunters such as tigers stash their kills to feed on over several days. (Guess who likes to watch Animal Planet).
Human cannibals have to chop up the body and store it in a freezer and refrigerator or they might eat their favorite parts and bury the rest. Do cannibals worry about catching diseases? Surely their identification with other human bodies has to be minimal or how can they cut up and cook flesh similar to their own?
A solution to the storage problem could be a group of cannibals living together and sharing. Individuals with extreme behaviors tend to be loners. No one is like them. They’ve always been different. If only they could use the social media and find there are others just like them. I wonder if I could make a story out of a modern day cannibalistic group.
Greed certainly motivates us. Advertisers rely on that. However, greed in a murder mystery can’t be too obvious. I think I’d like a villain motivated by greed and passion, or greed and revenge.
Do you see greed as a good motive for murder?