A Crime of Passion in the Abyss

The most affecting story in People of the Abyss is without a doubt that of Frank Cavilla, the man who murdered his wife and children out of desperation. After losing his job and housing, Mr. Cavilla grew hungry and poor. He soon realized that he could not sufficiently provide for his family. Finally, after more than a year had passed, Frank turned to the only solution that seemed reasonable—to slit the throats of his wife and four children. This act of love—for it can have no other name in this case—came about upon his realization that no matter how hard he worked and saved, he would never have enough money or food to sustain his entire family. As he is described as a dotting and loving father and husband, there can be no doubt that he had a selfish motive. The nature of the crime must be construed as passionate for Frank only killed because he cared for his family enough to not want them to suffer any more. The story stands out both for its incredible passion and for the description Jack London provides of the court case that followed the murders. Frank apparently appeared in court as a well-dressed and respectable man. This broke my heart for probably deprived the jury of understanding the hardship he faced. His motive for committing the murders could be so easily erased by looking at his clean outfit and sensible face. Also, the most bittersweet aspect of the story was that he retained his own life, no doubt to face the punishment for his actions of love.

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