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Book Review: Star Wormwood, 69 YALE L.J. 193 (1959)


CURTIS BOK, a justice of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, has here written an horrendous paradigm, dedicated to the proposition that our criminal
and penal system is founded on vengeance, which is a bad thing, and that
someday we shall learn to regard this system "with the same horrified wonder
as we now look back upon the Spanish Inquisition." His simple tale may be
shortly summarized. Roger, an adolescent of seventeen, brought up in the
depths of the depression, never far from hunger and often close to starvation,
obtains temporary employment tending the furnace in a high school. On an
evening when he has not eaten for three days, he catches a rabbit in the nearby woods and, in violation of the school rules, prepares to grill it in the furnace. Thus engaged, he is surprised by one Angela, a horrid child of thirteen, the sister of an acquaintance. Angela's disposition, never very sweet, has been soured by the fear that she may be pregnant by her brother, who has just Roger drops broken off an incestuous relationship of some weeks by raping her. Startled, Roger drops the rabbit on the coals, where it is quickly incinerated. Worse, Angela threatens to report his violation of the rules and have him fired. Enraged at losing his dinner and alarmed at the prospect of delation to the authorities, he seizes Angela and shakes her. She screams and struggles. To silence her, he grasps her by the throat. At this point the usual red mist of temporary insanity descends; when Roger comes to himself Angela is dead of anoxemia, fracture or dislocation of the cervical vertebrae, and asphyxia. Aware -that he is in an awkward position, but unaware that a human cadaver is one of the least combustible things in the world, Roger determines to thrust her in the furnace. The top part of Angela goes in fairly easily, but the hindquarters stick. As he heaves and pushes, an arm flops out of the furnace;grasping it, he burns his fingers and -thrusts them in his mouth. Thereupon events proceed as in the Dissertation on Roast Pig. The meat is described (on what evidence .is not clear) as tender, although rare, the crackling being particularly savory. In short, Roger consumes a generous portion of Angela. Thereupon he is sick. He flees the mess in panic, wanders in a trance, is caught and freely confesses.

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