“‘The Loeb-Leopold Tragedy’ and a Call for ‘Occupationality’ in Curricula”

“The Loeb-Leopold Tragedy” is nominally a short story by Clarence Darrow which appears in the geographically focused Chronicle Books publication Chicago Stories. Rudimentarily, though, it reads as more of a magazine article, a detailed montage of a Windy City murder’s victim, suspects, scene and circumstances.

The fact that it is so “detailed” probably buoys its “short story” pedigree, pertaining to the fact that it appears shoulder-to-shoulder in the book with the likes of Saul Bellow, Theodore Dreiser and Ring Lardner. Regarding the extent to which this “story” can be introduced in an English curriculum, though, it has one further feather in its cap: something I’d like to call “occupationality.” You could sub this with a term like “occupational specificity,” or “occupational adherence,” if you were into using, like, real words, and all that good stuff.
Clarence Darrow, admittedly, should be commended on his professional account. As the story’s speaker, he makes very few if any concessions of emotion, bias or any sort of leaning. He stays the course of vivid, unaffected divulgence stalwartly. This, of course, makes it that much more authentic and notable when he does betray his “occupationality”: his view that “There are many things that human beings cannot understand, and of all the fathomless questions that confront and confuse men, the most baffling is the human mind” (Miller 207). This flies in the face, for instance, of Aldous Huxley’s assertion in Point Counterpoint that “Everything that happens in life is intrinsically like the (person) it happens to.” Huxley takes more of a pantheistic mode of perspective, proffering perhaps that, as there is divinity and righteousness in everything, there can be no true injustice. An examination of the animal kingdom, for instance, and all its everyday cruelties, would abide such a paradigm. Pantheism, of course, can probably know no vital occupation, which if nothing else makes it an omnipresent and lively antagonist to any paradigmatic molding of “occupationality.”
Let’s reexamine Darrow’s statement, though. To me, is aligns semantically with the profession, the “occupation,” of law practice. It presupposes that there can be “injustice” — heinous action for which there is no explanation, and ergo for which there must needs be legal retribution. Was the murder more than just one set of cells and cognition acting in a logical way… was it truly the result of some sort of eventually amenable mental warping having enacted upon the human condition, thus initiating the “justice system”’s need?
A few more ideas I had for specific “occupations” to introduce, which are inhabited textually and integrally in certain cases, were the profession of farming, in David Rhodes’ recent tour-de-force novel Driftless, and an obvious choice, a policing line of work, in the pungently written, ordered and organized “The Untouchables” by Eliot Ness, which likewise appears in Chicago Stories.


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