The saying that crime does not pay lies at the heart of a great deal of literature and many films. It appears in a large number of fairy tales and childrens story. This is to teach children from an early age that it is wrong to commit a crime, no matter how small, and that every criminal is eventually punished. Of course this is not true, many crimes, especially smaller crimes, are never punished. This can either be because no one has discovered a crime was committed or because there was no punishment fit for the criminal. For instance, because the criminal wasnt conscious of committing the crime (mentally retarded, been drugged etc), because he is a minor and has a clean record or even because he is dying or deceased. However the criminal can be punished by other members of society as well and/or instead of by law. This would be in the form of revenge. Then there is self-inflicted punishment. Criminals often feel guilty and this can drive them to depression, sometimes leading them to inflict physical pain on themselves or to commit suicide. If the criminal is Christian or Moslem, he will also have to endure the thought of going to Hell. If the criminal is Hindu or Buddhist, he will know he is destroying his chance for a good rebirth, dirtying and ruining his karma, which will cause him to suffer for lifetimes to come. Criminal acts might in the short run satisfy them or fill their pockets, will in the long run, from a spiritual perspective, hurt the criminal. Indeed, in the long term, and from the moral and ethical, psychological and spiritual points of view, it appears to be almost always true that "Crime does not pay." Literature often portrays reality; therefore this moral is present a great deal.
Examples of crimes that are punished more by psychological means appear in The Millers Tale in Geoffrey Chaucers The Canterbury Tales. This was written before the 15th Century yet it already refers to crimes that were not punished by law but indirectly by the general public. This tale is of a rich carpenter, his newly wed young wife, Alison, and his lodger. The carpenter is an old, jealous man who doesnt give his wife any freedom for the fear she will cheat on him. The lodger, Nicholas, is always after women and he soon flirts with the beautiful Alison. She soon falls in love with him and they decide to trick the carpenter so they can sleep together. Nicholas, who is fascinated by astrology, tells the carpenter that by studying the moon he found out that in an hour there will be a great flood and the world will be drowned. The carpenter, who is sworn to secrecy, believes him and obeys his orders. He hangs up three kneading-troughs in the attic which are to be used as boats and at night the three of them get in their boats. The carpenter falls in a deep sleep after all his work so he doesnt know the two lovers have secretly gone downstairs to bed. However Absalon, a young parish clerk who is in love with the carpenters wife, hears that the carpenter hasnt been to work since Saturday. He uses this as an opportunity to tell Alison, through the bedroom window, of his love for her. After being told to leave, he agrees on the condition that she gives him one kiss. She consents but tricks him and he comes to learn that he has kissed a completely different part of her body. To take revenge, Absalon comes back with a hot iron and tells Alison he wants to give her a golden ring in exchange for another kiss. This time its Nicholass bottom that appears out of the window and is subsequently branded with the hot iron. His screaming awakens the carpenter who thinks the flood has started and cuts the rope tied to his tub. The boat falls and the carpenter breaks an arm and starts screaming that the world is flooding. Nicholas and Alison use this occasion to make him out as mad and for the rest of his life, nothing the carpenter says will change this in the eyes of the public. He is treated as a reject but his wife is also mocked for being...
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