The Murderer Summary
by Roy A. K. Heath

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The Murderer Summary

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

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The plot of The Murderer revolves around the difficulty the main character, Galton Flood, has in relating to women. His mother left him with a bad impression of females; she overwhelmed his father, whom he admired, and kept Galton away from girls his own age. As a Christian Puritan, she disapproved of worldly pleasures and freedom. Galton wishes he were like his brother Selwyn, who always did as he pleased while they were growing up, who took a healthy interest in sex, and who ended up happily married and a successful druggist. Yet Galton has absorbed his mother’s prudishness and cannot but see women as forbidden sexual objects and hate them for resembling his mother.

When his mother dies a year after his father, Galton makes the first of several bids for freedom. He moves from Georgetown (his hometown) to Linden (a river town) to live on a small inheritance. He takes a room in the house of A. H. Burrowes, a shopkeeper, where he meets Burrowes’ lonely daughter Gemma, who whiles away her time reading novels. Galton and Gemma take an intense interest in each other, but when Galton finds out from the Walk-Man (the town eccentric, who judges people’s characters by the way they walk) that Burrowes takes in male boarders in order to marry off his daughter, Galton is shocked and angry, and he leaves town.

Galton goes to work in the jungle, mining a river for diamonds. His work companions are all male, and he treasures the time he spends with them. After two years, however, he craves women. He returns to his hometown and boards in the family house which he owns with his brother Selwyn, who lives there with his wife and son. He responds to an old letter from Gemma Burrowes, which he had not received until he returned home, thus reviving their relationship. While Galton maintains a certain aloofness in their correspondence, Gemma is both flirtatious and hostile. Galton is attracted and irritated by her. To add to his confusion, Nekka, Selwyn’s wife, dislikes him and does not want him to stay in the house.

Galton’s inability to understand or interact with women impels him to leave, and his simultaneous need for a woman impels him to marry Gemma. They live in the house of Galton’s friend Winston, but Galton is too restless to stay. He and Gemma end up living in a tenement. His wife puts up with his prudish lovemaking, his friendship with the unctuous police informer who lives downstairs, and his moody reserve. His job in a radio shop is better than the one he had as watchman in a lumber yard, and he is taking a course to learn more about radios. His marriage, however, grows increasingly sour. He becomes suspicious of his wife, having learned from her that she was not a virgin (as he was) when they married. When she tells him that she had a lover in her father’s house during the time he was away in the jungle, his jealousy and suspicion turn into hatred and he murders her.

This is the secret that preys on him for the rest of the novel. The only friend he has at this...

(The entire section is 807 words.)