A short story I recently read in class was "The Orderly World of Mr. Appleby" written by Stanley Ellin.
The story tells us of a fastidious man named Mr. Appleby. Who owned a Shop called "Appleby: Antiques
and Curious." At the beginning of the story we are told he had come to investigate "the most efficient
methods for disposing of wife" so that he can come into immediate possession of her financial estate. He
then finds an appropriate case of what seems to him the most perfect murder in a text on forensic medicine
which told of a Mrs. X who was killed by her husband by her falling on an aptly placed scatter rug while
handing over a glass of water to her husband which was requested by him as part of his plan. He then
placed his one hand behind Mrs. X's shoulder and then the other across her jaw and with a sudden thrust
produced the same horrific results as the fall on the rug. Mr. Appleby used this method on 6 of his wife's.
Last in line was Martha Sturgis who "broke the pattern" his previous wives had created, not only in
appearance but also attitude. Mr. Appleby did not know that Martha knew about his past and had his details
past onto her Lawyers "Gainsborough Gainsborough and Golding" who she reports to every night to ensure
them she is still alive. Just as Mr. Appleby is about to perform his murderous deed Martha asks "Is this
what happened to all the others?" At this point the Gainsborough calls, and as Martha turns to place the
glass on a near by table, she accidentally slips and dies. This puts Gainsborough in the position to prosecute
Mr. Appleby for murder. On the first occasion that he had been innocent Mr. Appleby didn't know Martha
had been researching his past but we, the readers, discover at the same time she tells him, she reveals
details which tells us the case in forensic medicine book is about Martha's father who murdered her mother.
Martha wants Mr. Appleby who is exactly like her father to live the life her father should have lived if he
had no died of a heart attack before any verdict could be reached by the court.
The story was written in third person narrative. This was effective because we could see the action as if
through a by standers view. Also we could see everything that was going on as if we ourselves are in the
The main character in the story was Mr. Appleby. He was a small prim man who wore thin rimmed
spectacles and parted his greying hair in the middle. He took "sober pleasure" in pointing out that "there
was no room in his properly organized life for the operations of chance." His Shop "Appleby: Antiques and
Curious" was his pride and joy. Everything was carefully labeled and had a precise place and his nerves
were violently shook if anything was moved out of place. His mother who was a huge influence on his life
spared his nerves of this.As she had the "boiling and toasting" of his meals down to perfection. His
mother's death left "a vast gap" in his life. Therefore, he turned to marriage. All his wives had been like his
mother in appearance and in personality. All of them were murdered by the same "scatter - rug" method all
so Mr. Appleby could come onto immediate possession of financial estates.
Martha Sturgis was next in the line up of women but she knew about Mr. Appleby's past although he is not
aware of this he later finds out when he is about to kill Martha. Martha, as the writer described, had broken
the pattern established by his previous thin, pale, thin lipped wives. Martha was a large, shapeless woman
who in all manners may have been called "blowsy". Her hair was dyed orange - red and was piled
recklessly on top of her head. Also her blobby features were carelessly painted to their distress.
Her relationship with Mr. Appleby was for one purpose only, for him to lead the life her father should have
lived. Mr. Appleby was like Martha's father in every way appearance, personality and his way of being
completely organized and pernickety. The relationship was totally false. The reader was told that the
murder case in the forensic medicine book was infact Martha's father, who had killed her mother but before
anything had been proved he died of a heart attack. If anything was to happen to Martha during her time
with Mr. Appleby, then her lawyers had all the information they needed to prosecute against Mr. Appleby.
The two had met when Martha entered Mr. Appleby's shop looking for a gift for an infuriating friend, but
Mr. Appleby would not permit this as Martha did not care for the objects in his shop.
As the story went on Martha began to enjoy Mr. Appleby's company although she knew his future plans to
kill her and take all her financial belongings. They began to spend more and more time together and Martha
had dropped into the shop for chats on numerous occasions.
The effect of the setting in the story creates a stark contrast between Mr. Appleby's shop and Martha
Sturgis's home. The Shop was orderly and practical with everything labeled and in a specific place.
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?