Is there a statute of limitation on murder? I guess I could look this up with a quick search on Google, but it’s easier just to ask you. It’s also a rhetorical question, as I wanted to get your attention. I ask because I just read a novel in which the protagonist gets away with murder. Her name is Dolores Claiborne. Yes, I gave Stephen King another chance, and boy did he deserve it.
I enjoyed every minute of Dolores Claiborne (1992). It’s a fascinating tale of a woman accused of murdering her employer, an ailing, old, rich woman for whom Dolores is the housekeeper. Vera Donovan, the old woman, falls down the stairs and consequently dies, and the prime suspect is Dolores. The novel is the purported statement made by Dolores to the police. It’s a neat way of presenting the information, as we hear Dolores’s voice and story from her perspective. She proclaims her innocence, but then tells her long story to prove why. In the process, she confesses to the murder of her husband thirty years earlier. That’s why I ask about the statute of limitations. What kind of trouble will Dolores face for finally telling the truth about her husband’s drunken “fall” down an old well?
Don’t read this part if you don’t want a spoiler (but the truth is, it’s an “old” book, so you’ve probably read it before now). Apparently, Dolores doesn’t face any consequences. The end of the book is newspaper clippings, recounting the results of an inquest into Vera’s death, and Dolores is cleared of any wrongdoing. The newspapers also reveal that a donation of thirty million dollars has been made to an orphanage. The donor is anonymous, but we know that it’s Dolores, for she had inherited Vera’s massive fortune, but did not want it.
The motive for Dolores murdering her husband may have something to do with the fact that she never faces charges for his death. He had been molesting their teenage daughter, and when Dolores finds out, she plots for a way to escape him and protect the children. The plot eventually leads to murder, an idea that Vera plants in her head.
I am, however, impressed with Dolores’s reaction to her daughter’s story. Dolores knows that something is wrong, and finally figures out what when she pursues her daughter and helps her to feel safe enough to share her story. Dolores acts with such calm and kindness and really is a fantastic mother in her handling of the situation.
All too often, mothers do not protect their children. We can turn on the news or the latest sensational talk show and find families torn apart by abuse and neglect. We can see mothers who choose their “man” over their children. This is wrong. (Although it may have something to do with the fact that we only value women if they have a man to support them. Take a closer look at the welfare system.) As a student of mine recently told me in another context, that of pursuing educational opportunities, parents are advocates for their children. Children are powerless and need their parents to protect and guide them.
I could get personal here. I was never sexually abused, per say, but I did experience some uncomfortable situations with my step-father during my childhood. My mother would either act hysterically but do nothing, or she’d just shrug her shoulders when I told her. The most upsetting experience for me was when I found my step-father looking through a second-story window at me in the shower. I was seventeen at the time. He had climbed onto the roof. I slammed the window shut, jumped out of the shower, got dressed faster than I ever had, and fled the house with my friends. I told no one what had happened that night. Later, I told my mother and her response was, “Maybe he thought it was me.” Other disgusting things happened (that I do not feeling comfortable sharing) that disprove her theory, but I am still hurt by her mild reaction and her failure to “protect” me. I know that I need to forgive, and there are many things to forgive in my childhood, but this is one of those things that I have a hard time letting go of. Why didn’t she protect me? Why didn’t she care? That is more hurtful than my step-father’s actions.
I liked Dolores Claiborne. It proves what people have been telling me about King for years. He does have talent. He is a magnificent storyteller. I am glad that I gave him another chance.