Rhetoric II, Section 26
March 14, 2011
Often, works of fiction are based on actual events, and this is the case with Alfred Hitchcock’s 1948 thriller, Rope, and the 1924 murder trial of Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb. Hitchcock envelops the audience in suspense in his portrayal of the bizarre murder case of Leopold and Loeb in which they murdered a fourteen-year-old boy for no apparent reason. In the movie, Brandon and Philip, two wealthy, smart men, decide to kill their former classmate, David Kentley. When Flannery O’Connor wrote her essay on the definitions of the grotesque, she was referring to the characteristics that make a fictional work of literature grotesque; however, these same definitions can be applied to a non-fiction event to a certain extent. These guidelines must be used cautiously, for the events in a work of fiction, even if based on true events, are often exaggerated and are designed to be grotesque. Because of the realism in the movie, the nature and details of the actual crime and the fictional crime can be compared. Both Leopold and Loeb's murder and Brandon and Phillip's fictional murder are grotesque because O'Connor's definition and characteristics of the grotesque apply to both fact and fiction.
Both the Leopold and Loeb case and Brandon and Phillip’s fictional murder story contain events that the ordinary man never experiences in his ordinary life. A murder is out of the ordinary at the most basic form, but these two murders are much more bizarre and disturbing than a regular killing. In Brandon and Phillip’s fictional murder of a classmate, the fact that they murder a friend just to commit the “perfect crime” is very shocking and bizarre (Linder, Paragraph 5). One of the most unordinary details of the fictional murder occurs when Brandon and Phillip decide to hide David’s body in a chest in the center of their living room. Two killers have a greater chance for success if they dispose of the body as soon as possible, but they decide make their “work of art a masterpiece” and use the chest for the buffet for a party that night (Screenplay, 15). This act seems absurd to the normal person, for they appear to be trying to get caught. In the Leopold and Loeb case, the senseless murder in 1924 of a fourteen-year-old boy stunned everyone in Chicago. If an ordinary person experienced this murder firsthand, he would most likely suffer serious emotional or psychological trauma. Children have their entire life ahead of them, so this type of murder is unfathomable. The ransom note that they sent to the parents may at first seem like an ordinary and expected part of a kidnapping, but both of the boys’ families provided them with more than enough money. After taking this fact into consideration, the ransom note seems much more unordinary. According to Douglas Linder, neither of the two boys “relished the idea of murdering their kidnap victim, but they thought it critical to minimizing their likelihood of being identified as the kidnappers” (Linder, Paragraph 5). The main reason that they were caught was because someone found a pair of glasses where the body was dumped. This seems like an unordinary, clumsy mistake for two men who took so much care and thought planning out the perfect crime. The film and the actual case contain strange gaps and skips that create a sense of mystery. Gaps for the actual murder are harder to find since a thorough investigation was held, but many questions still remain. The most obvious skip in the case is why they chose “an acquaintance of the two boys, Bobby Franks” as the murder victim (Linder, Paragraph 5). Picking a random victim would make much more sense, for the chances of getting caught would be less if the victim’s family had absolutely no knowledge that Leopold and Loeb even existed. Another important skip in the case concerns the ransom note they sent to the Franks family. At first, the ransom note seems logical and...