Murder on Swan's Island
July 29, 2001 6:45 PM   Subscribe

Murder on Swan's Island Not a Stephen King story or a Murder She Wrote episode, but a real tragedy in a real small town in Maine (not far from my home town) where the deaths of two people change the lives of an entire community forever. It set me thinking ... how would this story be different if set in Boston, or LA, or London? Would the pain and loss for those who knew Jamie and Stacy be the same? Or is it magnified by the close-knit family that makes up a rural island township?
posted by anastasiav (4 comments total)
Definitely magnified. We recently had a murder in the small town I'm from; we all knew the victim, the shooter, and the boy who stole and sold the gun to him.
posted by skyline at 8:33 PM on July 29, 2001

Based on the fact that I live in an even smaller community yet (and one even more isolated), I think it's not a case of the family's pain and loss being more dramatic than anywhere else, but rather the blow to the community dynamic that is the atypical experience.

This was looked at in passing in the Kaycee endgame (no link here--just look at your old bookmarks if you're feeling lonesome for that story), but has a weight difficult to grasp for those with a more urban experience. In a small community, even people you don't care about or have little to do with on a casual daily basis are such a proportional part of the entire fabric that their loss, and the echoes of it as they work their way along from person to person, are devastating. Every person in that town has a magnifying glass on their neighbors right now, imagining how they contributed to this disaster (reality is of little importance in the situation, now). In a small town, no one is not involved, and that involvement, real or imagined, is already acquiring an importance in the minds of those islanders that will become forever a part of the fabric of that community. It's something you don't get to opt out of, when every face you ever see is known to you. In a small, isolated community, you are forced to confront the fact that there is no "them," but only subtly-shifting definitions of "us." When an "us" turns out not to have been what you thought, it shakes your belief in all the rest of "us" and your ability to know "us."

Or, to look at it in terms of another MeFi meme, consider the community of the A-list. If two A-listers offed each other (I'm not going to use names, lest this catapult the thread off on that tired direction), it would resonate within the A-list community, affect the larger x-list community, but be personal to only relatives/especially close connections of the deceased. On Swan Island, the entire place is the A-list. And it won't ever be the same again...and won't be very comfortable with itself for some time to come.
posted by salt at 8:53 PM on July 29, 2001

Salt, that's the most insightful thing I've read in quite a while.
posted by Optamystic at 11:41 PM on July 29, 2001

I lived on a small island with a close-knit community for three years. The third year we experienced two tragic accidental deaths. The whole community suffered and then took steps to healing. Your post, salt, sums it up beautifully.
posted by spandex at 1:41 AM on July 30, 2001

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