Eunice Parchman’s illiteracy drives her to kill the Coverdale family and leads to the discovery of her crime. Eunice is accused by Rendell of killing the Coverdale family because she cannot read or write (1). Because of the war, Eunice never learned to read, and as a result, she has shut herself out of the world. Rendell states at the opening of the novel, “Literacy is one of the cornerstones of civilization. To be illiterate is to be deformed. And the derision that was once directed at the physical freak may, perhaps more justly, descend upon the illiterate” (1). Eunice’s feeling of embarrassment in regards to her illiteracy causes her to misjudge the Coverdale famil. She insensitively prejudges their gestures of friendliness towards her as mockery of her illiteracy. Not only does her inability to read cause her to misjudge her victims’ sociability, but it also causes her to have a very limited imagination and little regard for others. Rendell states, “Illiteracy had dried up her sympathy and atrophied her imagination. That, along with what psychologists call affect, the ability to care about the feelings of others, had no place in her make-up” (42), in reference to Eunice’s heartlessness. Eunice’s hatred for literacy intensifies throughout the novel as she is faced with several tasks that require literacy, the ability that she does not possess. Rendell describes suc...
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...ed of the upper class society and by extension the Coverdale family causes them to form a mutual bond which they both benefit from. Rendell describes their relationship, “Without letting on Eunice thought Joan brilliantly clever, to be relied on for help whenever she might be confronted by reading matter… Without letting on, Joan saw Eunice eminently respectable, a possible bodyguard too if Norman (her husband) should ever attempt to carry out his feeble threat of beating her up…” (87). Fate is what brings Eunice and Joan together, and fate is what ultimately brings about the deaths of the Coverdale family.
Rendell, Ruth. A Judgement in Stone. Vintage; January 4, 2000
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