Interpretation of Murder (Rubenfeld)

Discussion Questions
1. Discss the use of the title, The Interpretation of Murder.

2. The author’s portrayal of women is noteworthy: Is Nora still a victim when she is empowered by a sympathetic listener? What are Clara’s motives for the events in the novel? How is Betty the maid, Susie Merrill, and Greta depicted? Do these characters reflect the turn-of-the-century society, or do they represent a more timeless portrayal of women?

3. Dr. Stratham Younger, a thirty-three-year-old Harvard graduate who teaches at Clark University and who is the narrator of the book, insisted at age seventeen that all great art and scientific discoveries were made at or near the turn of a century (Michelangelo’s David- 1501; Cervantes’s Don Quixote-1604; Beethoven’s symphonies-1800; Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams-1900, etc.) Discuss this phenomenon.

4. Is Younger the right man for the job of trying to unravel the attempted murder of Nora? Discuss psychoanalysis versus interrogation.

5. Consider the role of class conflict in the book: Jung’s feelings of shame over his obvious wealth; Jung versus Freud; Acton versus Banwell; Chong versus Leon; Malley and Betty, etc.

6. What role does psychological transference and sexual attraction play in the book?

7. Younger asks, “How can human beings be loved if we carry within such repugnant desires?” Freud thinks that Nora wants to sodomize her father. Is this ultimately true?

8. Discuss the author’s mix of fact and fiction. How has this device been used in previous New York novels, such as The Alienist, Ragtime, Dreamland: A Novel, Paradise Alley, etc.

9. Younger is obsessed with solving the riddle of Hamlet in the book. Discuss his analysis of “to be or not to be” in terms of Freudian/Oedipal theories. What does Younger finally decide? Is this the correct interpretation?

10. Younger says, “Some people feel a need to bring about the very thing that will most torment them.” How does this describe the characters in the book?

11. When he boards the ship back to Europe, Freud says that “America is a mistake.... A gigantic mistake.” What does he mean?
(Questions issued by publisher.)

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