How we change what others think, feel, believe and do
Slaying of a kinsman unrecognized
Previous: Involuntary crimes of love
The Slayer kills (or nearly kills or harms) the Unrecognized Victim, who is actually a relative or friend of the Slayer. Thus a seemingly justified act suddenly becomes unjustified.
It is easy to justify the punishment of someone who appears to have done something wrong, but what is often missed is perhaps incorrect evidence or extenuating circumstances. This is one of the dilemmas of capital punishment - that the person killed may later be found to be innocent, when there is no route for redress or reversal of the punishment.
When a hero in a story goes to kill a person, the story may well have built up a good justification for that act and as readers we tacitly support the hero's action. When, however, we realize that the victim is a kinsman, then social rules take over and we cry out for the hero to stop! This inner conflict is the stuff of great stories and we get carried along by the excitement.
Further tension may be added to the story when the Victim knows about the relationship and may be desperately trying to communicate this to the Slayer.
A similar pattern occurs with accidental killing or harm of a loved one, whether by sword or car, and we may feel great sympathy for the anguish of the unintending killer.
'Slaying of a kinsman unrecognized' is the 19th of Georges Polti's 36 Dramatic Situations.