Literary Analysis Essay on A Death in Belmont by Sebastian Junger

Published: 2021-07-05
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Carnegie Mellon University
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Rape is a sexual assault carried out against one's consent. Rape-related cases majorly include killings and rape-murders, in which a victim undergoes sexual pervasion and harassment. In many cases, victims of rape entail children and young females with the rapist/killer a male. The rape - murder case is often never a clear-cut presentation as in the event of a robbery or organized crime in homicide. Over the years, rape-murder cases have gradually increased with older women, young girls falling victim to the offense. Sexual deviance and human sexuality form a challenging aspect of living, complicating the notion and issue of rape and especially if the act is accomplished by murdering the victim. Practical experience by investigators and medical practitioners who handle rape victim expose a complicated web of immorality coupled with a complex human behavior. While it remains the most heinous and intimate crime, rape-murder stands out as one of the most complex aspects of criminality in the society.

A Death in Belmont by Sebastian Junger narrates an eerie, horrid story in which Bessie Goldberg is raped and stifled. The rapist had unleashed terror and savage spree that had threatened the lives and people of Belmont in Massachusetts. The rapes and murders take a shocking pattern as the victims are raped and strangled in the same manner. Despite confusion in the suspects and eventually convicted of the wrong person, the person who finally confessed to carrying out the mass rape-murders in Belmont are seen as a friendly and well-known person to the victim (Aucoin 231). According to the narration, Albert DeSalvo had worked and lived close to the victim for many years. How it turns out that he masterminded the entire heinous act remains a mystery, as more of his controversial rape-murders are unearthed. His confessions open up investigations into larger rape-murder cases that had taken place in Belmont. His rape-murders made the same trend, rape, strangulation using stockings around the neck tied into a bow. Junger narrates that when the rapists came into the house and stood at the foot of the staircase,

"I heard him come in, and two or three minutes later I heard him call me. He had this intense look in his eyes, a strange burning in his eyes as if he was almost trying to hypnotize me. As if by sheer force of will he could draw me down into that basement (Junger 123)."

Junger narrates that,

Clearly he wanted to get her down into the basement, and clearly if she did that thing could go very wrong. My mother told him that she was busy, and then she closed the basement door and shot the bolt (Junger 127)."

From the above confessions of Jungers mom, it is evident that DeSalvo had ulterior motives by calling his mother in the basement. It thus raises the question of the intent and purpose of a rapist cum murderer. According to investigators, the underlying motive of an attacker is to subdue, control, and overpower the victim. The rapist thus obtains gratifying satisfaction through and by luring, and seeing the pain, fear, and suffering in the victim's eyes. Rape-murder cases have tremendously increased in the 21st century as more investigations open up to counter the rising number of deaths. DeSalvos confession while behind bars of the 13 murders that resulted from rapes became a clear indication of the societys inadequate preparedness for handling and connecting the complicated intricacies of rape-murder cases (Junger 165). While DeSalvo roamed freely in the streets of Belmont, Roy Smith, who was convicted wrongfully, is languishing in prison, and serving a sentence by mistake. In many instances, rape-murder cases often delude investigators and coupled with the intricate details often picked up in rape scenes; it is a clear indication that rape, as a crime is a complicated phenomenon of humanity and human relation. Often and in many cases, the terror it unleashes on individuals leaves many to question their sexuality and especially amongst the most culpable victims, the women.

Rapists in many cases, target vulnerable victims in the society, with young women, female, children, and the elderly topping the list of the most vulnerable groups. As Jungers mother narrates, perpetrators of rape-murder, acts target their victims, and commit their acts away from the vicinity. It thus explains why DeSalvo had gone scot free with over 13 rape-murder cases without the police or justice system catching up with him (Junger 176). It thus sounds strange that one would commit such large number of rape-murders without raising the attention of the authorities and comprehended. The scenario opens up the intimate nature of the crimes it often borders to tearing a victim apart and exposing their most vulnerable and weak element of their individuality (Aucoin 244).

Away from rape-murder cases, rape, in general, has profound physical effect in addition to psychological trauma. Physical effects include sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy, urinary infections, painful intercourse, and uterine fibroids. Psychological side effects of rape include post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, guilt, anger, sleep disorder, borderline personality disorder, feelings of powerlessness, distrust towards others, and sense of stress and anxiety. The aftermath of the act may take the form of chronic psychological and chronic effect as the victim undergoes the long-term and short-term effects. It has the effect of destroying intimate relationships, disintegrating ones connection with others, and long-term treatment for those raped at an early age. From the book, and the confession of DeSalvo, it is possible to argue that the community of Belmont had grown to mistrust one another. In addition to the high number of rape-murder cases in the region, the locals treated each other with caution as Jungers mother explains that the look in DeSalvos eyes as he stood at the foot of the staircase caused her to develop fear as he looked down at him. She confesses that he looked at her with intent eyes, strange kind of burning eyes... It denotes that the entire community of Belmont feared falling victim to the rising number of rape-murder incidences (Junger 178). Later, after DeSalvos confession, Jungers mother recalls having caught him fondling a young women breast, an act that she kept to herself until after DeSalvo was arrested.

Frequent and occasioned rape rates within the society have the side effect of creating animosity and fear amongst the locals (Tark et al., 271). On the other hand, the need to dispense justice to the perpetrators of rape-murder is often intense as in many cases; the society develops a keen interest in a rape-murder case. In many instances, the society expects instant justice, and the judicial system is often under pressure to act and bring to book the suspects (McGuire 168). It is thus evident in the narration why Roy Smith was mistaken taken in, put before a white hungry jury, and convicted of a crime he did not commit. The intimate nature of rape-murder in the society often raises the need to safeguard and protect women in the community, as they often appear weak, vulnerable, and incapable of fending for themselves (Cochran 34). Despite the fact that over 90 percent of rape cases are carried out by men does not mean that people do not care about crime as a whole. Men have sisters, friends, daughters, wives, and mothers. Besides destroying marriages and splitting families and relationships, rape has the long effect of overpowering, weakening, and violating human decency (Tark et al., 274). The fact that the narrator and writer of A Death in Belmont" is a male point of the fact that the society as a whole is gradually opening up to speak of rape-murder as a problem against humanity. In the book, the fact that the justice system did not take immediate action to release Roy Smith even after DeSalvo confessed to the rape-murder of Bessie Goldberg is a pointer to the negative connotation the society takes on rape as a whole. Because the region had experienced a high number of rape-murder cases, freeing Roy Smith despite his innocence could not have gone well with the majority of the people of Belmont. It apparently means that rape-murder crimes ought to attract the highest penalties ever within the justice system. The perception is a pointer to how the society is currently handling rape cases with many people coming forth to report sexual assaults and the criminal justice system resilient in dispensing stiff penalties to suspects in rape-murder cases (Aucoin 254). At the same time, DeSalvos murder in prison may also give a pointer to the nature of his criminal act that fueled reasons for his death at the hand of fellow prisoners. The narrator says, "When my mother heard the news, she assumed Desalvo was killed by a black inmate in retaliation for Roy Smith's conviction ten years earlier." However, far from it, he faced the wrath of a society bent on showing contempt for rape-murder crime. Stiff penalties are aimed at giving women and girls the confidence to understand their worth and not live in fear.

Rape-murder represents one among many crimes and violence that has permeated the society with many individuals, personalities, institutions, and governments feeling challenged by the presence of such acts within the community (McGuire 171). The terrifying aspect of the narrator's detective story is a pointer to the complex problem of arresting and keeping girls and women safe, away from acts of rape and sexual assault. From an analysis of both suspects, the author lays the ground for some of the pointing factors that may move one to commit rape-murder. He cites DeSalvos background and sexual sadist father who may have played a critical role in the development of his criminal history (Junger 74). Sexual violence in the society is not a natural development, but a human aspect that develops slowly due to prevailing circumstances. For example, children born in environments with high levels of domestic abuse, violence, sexual connotations, and low opinion of women, tend to develop aggression and negative attitude towards members of the opposite sex. For example, DeSalvo is portrayed as one born and brought up in abject poverty, a criminal background, alcoholism, and horrific institutions. In the current society too, these pointers and factors may lead one to develop a sadistic attitude towards women in the society and continuous growth to harm and cause them pain. Rape-murder crimes remain one of the most heinous and violent crimes against members of the opposite sex.


Works Cited

Aucoin, James. "Sebastian Junger's War,Expert Testimony, and Understanding the Story." Journalism Studies 17.2 (2016): 231-246.

Cochran, John K., Et al. "Rape, Race, and Capital Punishment: An Enduring Cultural Legacy of Lethal Vengeance?." Race and Justice (2015): 2153368717702700.

Junger, Sebastian. A Death in Belmont. WW Norton & Company, 2006.

McGuire, Danielle L. "Race, Rape, and Injustice: Documenting and Challenging Death Penalty Cases in the Civil Rights Era." (2015): 167-170.

Tark, Jongyeon, and Gary Kleck. "Resisting rape the effects of victim self-protection on rape completion and injury." Violence against women 20.3 (2014): 270-292.


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