I am researching the poem of Barry Holden and need help understanding all the things that led up to him killing his pregnant wife.Thanks!!

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linda-allen | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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Spoon River Anthology, by Edgar Lee Masters, is a fascinating collection of poems written as if they were the last testament of the dead citizens of Spoon River.

In his piece, Barry Holden begins by stating that he had spent the day at the murder trial of Zora Clemm, who had been murdered by her lover, Dr. Duval. Zora was pregnant, and Duval would not let his reputation be destroyed by the revelation of his affair and illegitimate child. In Barry Holden's words, "to let the child be born/ Would no do." That made Barry think about his own situation--eight children already and another on the way and a mortgage to pay. He could understand the doctor's desperation and desire to escape his situation.

When he got home that evening after the trial, he noticed a hatchet that his sons had left on the porch. The minute he entered the house he wife started nagging him about the mortgage. And that's when he snapped and hacked her to death.

Masters doesn't moralize (tell us they're right or wrong) about his characters. He lets them tell their stories, and we can decide how to react.