“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 nearby 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 room.

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 shaken 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 lineup 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 in fact 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. Martha’s home on the other hand is “a nightmare of disorder” with drawers and cupboards overflowing, and everything was “casually flung” aside which made it not worth picking up as it would have been cast aside once more. The structure of the text was very tight.

The revelation of Mr. Appleby’s criminal intentions at the beginning of the story left the readers in a state of anticipation. Also the plot was cleverly thought out.

The climax where Mr. Appleby is about to murder Martha, when she asks “is this what happened to all the others?” first has the reader in a state of suspense than a state of shock, when Martha dies by accident on the scatter rug as she was placing down a glass of water so she could go the phone to talk to Mr. Gainsborough. Then the lawyer gives Mr. Appleby ten seconds to get Martha to the phone because he doesn’t he is then arrested.

The language of the text was highly descriptive and complex. The writer conveys the characters and setting using excellent imagery such as “Her shoes gave evidence of long and pleasurable wear without corresponding care being given to their upkeep.” When describing Martha’s shoes. The author also uses a sense of irony – Martha dies slipping on the scatter rug without Mr. Appleby causing her death.

Mr. Appleby saw she had turned to set down the glass of water and the “rug skidded slightly under her feet” and then he saw her fighting for balance as she fell to the ground as “her face twisted into a silent scream.” Mr. Appleby will be convicted or hung for the death of Martha Sturgis although this is the first wife he has not killed. The twist in the tale is effective because it shocked the reader, due to Martha dying on the rug without Mr. Appleby aiding her death in any way.

Also the fact that Mr. Appleby has been caught and may be convicted for all the murders he has committed.

author avatar
William Anderson (Schoolworkhelper Editorial Team)
William completed his Bachelor of Science and Master of Arts in 2013. He current serves as a lecturer, tutor and freelance writer. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, walking his dog and parasailing. Article last reviewed: 2022 | St. Rosemary Institution © 2010-2024 | Creative Commons 4.0

1 Comment

  1. I am a little old for help with schoolwork, but I really enjoyed this! Ellin is one of my favorite writers and I revisit him often. I recommend “The Specialty of the House.”

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