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The Butcher’s Wife – Limits of the Law
Dalarna University, School of Humanities and Media Studies, Chinese. (ISTUD)
2019 (English)Conference paper, Oral presentation with published abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

In the 80’s, Li Ang, a Taiwanese female writer, adapted a murder case in Shanghai in 1945 into a novel “The Butcher’s Wife,” that depicts a woman who, due to her traumatized childhood and psychological condition caused by her husband and neighbours, kills her husband, a butcher, and dismembers the body the way he does pigs. The real murder case in 1945 was less sensational; however, the rumours, the newspapers, or even the legal opinions all implied that the female offender, Zhan Zhou, brutally murdered her husband and disposed of body in an inhumane way. 

It was shocking when people learnt from media that Zhan Zhou murdered her husband, and people started to speculate about the motivation. Due to most traditional Chinese women were confined at home with no contact with others, crimes that women committed being mostly related to family, and people, under the influence of Chinese traditional literature about women as well, speculated that Zhan Zhou must have killed her husband for a lover. However, it turned out that Zhan Zhou was not engaged in any adultery, and that she, different from people’s imaginations of an adulteress, was ordinary and not attractive and seductive. It had become a mystery why a woman did not kill her husband for another man, and that why a physically weaker and mentally gentler woman committed such a serious crime.

Li Ang’s novel tries to answer both questions, criticize the prejudices about female offenders, and offers a legal explanation, as I see it, to exonerate the butcher’s wife through a plea of insanity. However, it also strengthens a stereotypical image of female offenders that a woman who commits a serious crime, if she is not under the influence of a man or having an affair, must be mentally ill. Therefore, in this paper, I will examine the image of Zhan Zhou shaped by legal opinions and news reports, then compare it with the image depicted in “The Butcher’s Wife” to illustrate the reinterpretation of the image of a female offender who kills her husband. Furthermore, along with other real cases in which female offenders who murdered their husbands also used insanity as a defense strategy, I will explain why this novel also shows the limit of law in legal writing in literature.       

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2019.
Keywords [en]
Law and Literature, Taiwanese Literature, Interdisciplinary Study
National Category
General Literature Studies Other Humanities not elsewhere specified
Research subject
Intercultural Studies
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:du-30585OAI: oai:DiVA.org:du-30585DiVA, id: diva2:1340227
Conference
20th International Roundtable for the Semiotics of Law (IRSL 2019), Instituto Jurídico da Faculdade de Direito da Universidade de Coimbra (UCILeR - University of Coimbra Institute for Legal Research) Portugal, 23-25 May 2019
Available from: 2019-08-02 Created: 2019-08-02 Last updated: 2019-08-05Bibliographically approved

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Hu, Lung-Lung

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