On New Year’s Eve the body of a seventeen year old girl was found on the stairs of a building. She was a first year college student. The killer gagged her, and stabbed the body seven times with a knife. The investigation described in a magazine (“Zvezda,” N11, 1985) led to an absolutely unpredictable result. The girl was killed by her friend Irene, also a first year student, and also a seventeen year old girl. Someone was selling a very beautiful and expensive French dress and Irene wanted very much to buy it. It seemed to her that with the purchase of that dress she would have a new life. She was going to bed and waking up with the thought of that dress. She asked her parents for money but they mocked her. Then she told her friend that she could obtain fashionable boots at a certain price, which coincidently was the same price as the dress. They went together to another block to visit a private seller. When they entered the apartment building, they smoked and Irene fell upon her friend with a knife. She didn’t find any money –it was not in the purse, it was in the back pocket of the trousers of the dead girl.
The killer was found, her motive revealed and she was accused, but there is one simple human question left: how could she? Many people want to dress up beautifully; it happens that for a desirable goal a man can behave improperly. But to attack a friend and kill her with a kitchen knife, with premeditation? To walk with her, to talk to her, then to smoke with her knowing that those were the last minutes of the friend’s life?
Why, at all are some people able to do so?
When the investigator starts his research he selects possible versions, throwing out one after another until the most plausible version is left. Let us also try to select the one within the most widespread psychological versions, which usually come to our mind in such cases.
Was the girl mentally ill? No, Irene was absolutely healthy and she thoroughly pondered and prepared for the crime before undertaking it. She studied a medical book to learn where to strike. Never before had people noticed her inclination to sadism or cruelty; she never killed a butterfly or a beetle, and she never behaved brutally to anyone; she lost consciousness when blood was taken from her finger.
Did she live with a hard difficult family; was she shown a bad example? No, her mother and her father were excellent workers, the mother was an English language teacher, and her grandpa was a veteran of the war and labor. He died at eighty four years of age having work experience of sixty eight years.
Was she a spoiled egoist? No, her parents raised her up in an atmosphere of modesty and love for work, they didn’t buy any extra things, and she was obedient and caring of her parents, her grandma, and her little sister.
Was anything wrong with teaching her honesty and decency? No, when she decided her crime she asked her friend to bring exactly the price of the dress pretending it would be used for purchasing boots – exactly equal to what she needed to buy the dress, “because I didn’t need any extra money,” as she wrote in her confession. She was honest.
Was she a dark, uneducated person? No, she studied at school with a major in English. At school she was considered “not without grounds one of the most developed and intelligent students,” her thoughts about literature and music were “interesting and contextual,” her writing compositions were awarded at a city teachers conference, and she was “efficient, diligent, and working on her development. She was socially active, and had authority in the class. She had a balanced character. She was morally stable…”
Finally, maybe she had faults in the emotional realm – was she heartless and senseless? No, she loved her parents and she loved her boyfriend, she told her friend that she couldn’t live without him.
All psychological versions are discarded one after another. This is such an extraordinary case: there is an answer for each question. Life made a terrifying educational experiment. Irene had not known life yet, she was a pure and natural fruit of upbringing, the result of parenting efforts of a family and a school…
What is left? Should we suppose, together with the author of the documented story, that there were some “unsatisfied complexes, which are ready to burst in unpredictable turn of events”? Should we agree that “all this, unfortunately, remains a secret covered by darkness and mystery”? But if we at least take this point of view – secrets, complexes, – then we will have to expect attacks from any person: what if complexes burst in him and he would fall upon me and kill me? So, how to raise children, how to believe in upbringing if, at the very end, everything is a secret and nothing helps –not example, not work, not education, not development, and not morality? No, we cannot take this point. We may not find a killer, but we should not announce the crime as a mystery and calm down about this.
There is something that escapes our notice. There is some reason that we aren’t used to taking into account, and when we brush aside those cases, when we say “pathology,” “exclusion,” and “foreign soul is darkness” -we divert from the search of something endlessly important.
Conventional reasons: “She had no control ,” “She didn’t know fear,” “Parents didn’t teach her…”- don’t work. She was taught, she had “control,” all feelings, all abilities, intellect, and will – everything was available in her!
And yet, something was missing. What was it?
Parenting For Everyone, by S.Soloveychik, book2 Part 2 Chapter 1