You can’t take it with you…

Inheritance is a sticky issue. Even the happiest of families will fall out over a will. Avarice will often drive people to the most heinous crimes, theft, fraud or even murder. Inheritance has long been a staple in murder mysteries. (And I’m fairly sure that a large number of real murders have something to do with money.)

Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Adventure of The Speckled Band incorporates the themes of money and greed into a Gothic Murder-Mystery. The crumbling mansion and the rich, eccentric family create a great Gothic atmosphere for the story. I won’t spoil it, but the method of the murder is very inventive. I also came across another, much earlier Murder-Mystery The Poisoner of Montremos by Richard Cumberland, published in 1791, this is a short but complex story of a family. Their tangled relationships, financial ruin and greed drive them to murder. The conclusion is tragic and unexpected. The protagonist’s home is an eerie, melancholy castle, where he lives alone for many years before being brought to trial. This Murder-Mystery also uses the theme of inheritance, but in a more complex fashion.

Wealth is an important theme in many Gothic stories. The decayed aristocratic families clinging onto their titles and land, or the ambitious, greedy villain seeking his immoral fortune. Gothic tales became popular at a time when society was changing, more people were self-made, so attitudes towards the aristocracy and the notion of inherited wealth may have been less sympathetic.

Robert Louis Stevenson’s Olalla, depicts the aristocracy as inbred and degenerate, but maintaining their secluded castles and airs of superiority. Bram Stoker in Dracula and Dracula’s Guest, portrays them as inhumane and sadistic. The vampire is perhaps a very loose metaphor for the nobleman who displays a general lack of regard for human life.

Perhaps it is the money itself that has cursed these families. The fixation with wealth and holding onto wealth is enough to turn any happy family into a nest of monsters.

~~~

I enjoyed the new Sherlock Holmes film, it was a fairly liberal adaptation from the books. But it was a really strong action film, the characters were very entertaining. Holmes is portrayed as twitchy and eccentric, which I liked. (I love Basil Rathbone, but the older versions of Holmes are a lot more respectable and a little too staid for my liking.) The police are depicted as stupid, Rachel McAdams is lovely, and the psychotic nature of London comes across well. Lots of gratuitous BritPorn for anyone who likes that stuff, old buildings, period costumes, old-fashioned gadgets, posh actors etc.

All in all well worth seeing.

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One thought on “You can’t take it with you…

  1. Pingback: Project Snail « Thrin

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