본문 바로가기
  • Home

But Why Did They Kill?: Psychological Interpretations of the Papin Case and Kesselman’s Reinterpretation in My Sister In This House

  • Journal of Modern English Drama
  • Abbr : JMBARD
  • 2009, 22(3), pp.167-192
  • Publisher : 한국현대영미드라마학회
  • Research Area : Humanities > English Language and Literature > English Literature > Contemporary English Drama

Joohyun, Park 1

1연세대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

The infamous murder of the Papin sisters aroused the attention of not only popular media of the time, but of psychoanalysts such as Jacques Lacan and literary figures like Jean Genet and Wendy Kesselman. Journalists in Papins’ time defined maids’ madness and sexual perversity as the most significant cause of the murder. Such was to relieve the fear of the employers of maids--they needed to believe that not all maids are dangerous. Similarly, psychoanalysts focused on the mental disorder of the sisters, emphasizing the abnormality of the incestuous lesbian relationship of the two girls, thereby reconfirming the common understanding that madness may lead to violence. Genet’s “The Maids” is a literary adaptation which follows the line of such psychological interpretation. Such reading of the case, however, does not take into account the fact that the two murderesses were maids. Maids were doubly oppressed because of their gender and class; without high education, they had to take jobs in the domestic area where they were threatened by not only desire of male members of the household but the oppressive behaviors of their mistresses. Wendy Kesselman’s My Sister In This House (1982) challenges the presupposition of the sisters’ madness and reveals the external factors such as inhuman working condition and constant surveillance of the employers. She emphasizes the shrewdness of the employer who denies the maids of the rudimentary needs of life such as a heated room or break from work, and allows the sisters to speak out as subjects who have the right to demand justice.

Citation status

* References for papers published after 2022 are currently being built.