The Postman Always Rings Twice
Author: James M. Cain
An amoral young tramp. A beautiful, sullen woman with an inconvenient husband. A problem that has only one grisly solution--a solution that only creates other problems that no one can ever solve.
I enjoyed this super-quick, afternoon read about Frank Chambers' and Cora Papadakis' encounter with the Postman. At first I couldn't pinpoint the Postman's true identity, being that he was an implied character of sorts. Was he Moira or Karma? --turns out he was both. He gives himself away near the end, as soon as Cora revealed her pregnancy to Frank:
Now listen to me Frank. All that time, I was out there, waiting for the funeral to be over, I thought about it. What it would mean to us. Because we took a life didn't we? And now we're going to give one back (109)
At this point Frank and Cora now realize his influence in the whole scheme, but it's too late; both will have to pay. The couple initially comes into contact with the Postman after their first attempt at murdering Cora's husband, Nick Papadakis. (Why do they want to murder him again? He's an inconvenient husband, that's why. Frank wants Cora, and Cora wants Frank but they can't be together because she's Mrs. Papadakis. The only obstacle standing in the way of their violent, whirlwind romance is Papadakis himself. And during a time of difficulty and desperation, the only logical solution is to murder him). A curious cat foils the first plan, but a suspicious cop isn't suspicious enough to call out Frank and Cora. At this point it's hard to determine if the Postman is working for them, or against them. The answer becomes less obscure after their second and successful attempt at murder of Nick Papadakis. The interaction with Sackett and Katz only generates more issues for Frank and Cora; after neither is held responsible for the murder, not only do they risk the chance of blackmail, they are deeply indebted morally. In the end, they both pay for their crimes; Frank on Death Row and Cora and her unborn child are killed in an automobile accident.
Here are a few lines worthy or sharing:
I overtook a big truck. It had a sign on the back, Sound Your Horn, the Road Is Yours. I banged on the horn, and it kept right down the middle. I couldn't pass on the left, because a whole line of cars was coming toward me. I pulled out to the right and stepped on it. She screamed. I never saw the culvert wall (112)
There's a guy in No.7 that murdered his brother, and says he didn't really do it, his subconscious did it. I asked him what that meant, and he says you got two selves, one that you know about and the other that you don't know about, because it's subconscious. Did I really do it, and not know it? (116)
A lot happens in these 116 pages and despite the lack of an actual postman, Cain's clean and concise writing style is something to be admired...Maybe I'm all wrong about the Postman; maybe it's not Moira or Karma, but that's my interpretation. I read somewhere that the title had something to do with Cain waiting for a postman to deliver a manuscript or something like that?...anyways, I look forward to watching a couple of the movie adaptations and possibly reading Double Indemnity.
The Postman Always Rings Twice