What struck me the most about Laura Lippman’s writing in Butchers Hill was my most initial reaction to the characters in the prologue. Lippman’s writing is nicely detailed in conveying the strain between Luther and the destructive and mischievous young kids. Although I completely disagree with the atrocious act of violence Luther resorts to, I couldn’t help feeling compassion and sympathy for him. I felt badly for him, and as a reader related more to him than the rude young delinquents. Through the prologue, it was hard for me to feel sympathy for the children, which I found disturbing.
The more I pondered the reasoning behind my initial reaction, the more I found answers in Lippman’s writing. I think it is deliberate and strategic that she creates such a sad past for Luther, delving into details about his lost love, Annie. She shows such a sensitive and vulnerable side to Luther, when she opens the novel writing, “He marveled at everything about her- the white rickrack she sewed along the hem and neckline of her dress to give it what she called pizzazz… She would hang, the toes of her bare feet curling in fear as she swung above the street, and he would laugh, he couldn’t help himself… But that was forty years ago and Annie was dead, almost ten years now, and he was alone in their bed” (pg 1 &2). Lippman makes it a point to show how lonely Luther is, and how much he misses Annie.
She further develops his character by making him increasingly pathetic, and at first helpless to the kid’s vandalism. When he first steps out on the front porch he slips and falls, while the young kids, unafraid, mercilessly mock him and laughed at him. They call him old man and tell him to get inside. They saw no threat in him, and had no respect for him, which in turn Luther reciprocates by devastating and extreme manner. Lippman describes in greater detail Luther’s sympathetic characteristics more so than his personal traits that influence him shooting the gun. She does the same for the kids’ characterization, but conversely. She concentrates on the kid’s negative attributes, rather than there more humanizing traits.
Lastly I think Lippman really made Luther appealing to the reader in describing his frustrations with injustice. Lippman writes, “When those kids got started, they took their sweet time, knowing no one would call the police, and it wouldn’t matter if they did. Everyone in the neighborhood, so scared of those little kids, and the cops so indifferent it could make you cry” (pg 3). Every human being can relate to the anger and frustration that comes with being treated unfairly, and I think this is why Luther appealed to me. In reading it I wanted Luther to take action- to make a difference for himself or try to work for justice in the city, but of course I didn’t agree with his violent resolution. I think the prologue is packed with such insightful ideas about the problems of cities, and that Lippman did an effective job of introducing her text.