“I’m dying! She shrieked. I’m dying!” marked the last words spoken by Catharine Genovese. She uttered the words as she frantically lay on the floor bleeding while thirty-eight of her neighbors enjoyed their morning sleep—fully aware of her condition. Miss Genovese was stabbed three times over thirty-five minutes while heading home from her job as a bar manager in Hollis. Martin Gansberg applies a straightforward tone in narrating the story, such as, “She got as far as a street light in front of a bookstore before a man grabbed her” (Gansberg, 128, para. 11). The neighbors could have saved Miss Genovese’s life by calling the police after the assailant stabbed her the first and second time. Martin Gansberg sought to sensitize people on how society was rapidly eroding human compassion and affection. For instance, Martin comments, “Not one person telephoned the police during the assault; one witness called the police after the woman was dead” (Gansberg, 127, para. 2). In this case, Gansberg aimed to sensitize people to increase their moral apathy and social responsibility to prevent atrocities committed in society.
According to Gansberg, the disregard for human life was pioneered during the 1950 and 1960s. During that decade, the American culture and societal setups rapidly evolved. The decade was characterized by calmness, which led to escalating problems and negatively redefined the average American community. Towards the end of the decade, civil rights movements gained momentum, which resulted in social turmoil among the northern and southern American cities. Additionally, the intensity and magnitude of the Vietnam war, President John F Kennedy’s assassination four months prior, increased films based on violence, and the increase in crimes created bitter political and societal divisions. The murder of Kitty Genovese sparked a nationwide and international call for human apathy and social responsibility.
Gansberg’s article narrates the reconstruction of events from 14th March 1964, where neighbors witnessed the murder of Catharine Genovese. The murder occurred in three separate attacks as she arrived at her apartment in Kew Gardens. On arrival at her residence, she stationed her red Fiat on the same spot she always did since she immigrated from Connecticut a year prior. She was walking towards her apartment when she saw a man at the far end of a seven-story building. She nervously headed to the nearest call booth to report the case to the Richmond Hill police station when the man came after her and grabbed her.
The assailant stabbed Miss Genovese; she screamed and woke the neighbors. One neighbor shouted at the assailant from his house window and scared him away. Sadly, none of the neighbors came out of their houses to check on Miss Genovese after yelling that the assailant had stabbed her. As Miss Genovese struggled to get to her apartment, the killer returned and stabbed her for the second time, where she painfully screamed, “I’m dying!” (Gansberg 129, para. 16). Like the two preceding times, the neighbors observed the crime through their windows, but none came out to help her. The bedroom lights scared the assailant, and he drove away. Shortly afterwards, the killer returned for the third time and fatally stabbed Miss Genovese and killed her. One of the neighbors called the police, who found Catharine lying on the floor, lifeless.
When the police interviewed the man who finally called the police after Miss Genovese’s death, he claimed he did not want to get involved. The response spoke volumes regarding the lack of apathy by the neighbors as they witnessed the whole ordeal but chose not to intervene. “For more than half an hour, thirty-eight respectable, law-abiding citizens in Queens watched a killer stalk and stabbed a woman in three separate attacks in Kew Gardens” (Gansberg 127, para. 1). Another witness, a wife, hindered her husband from intervening case by justifying that she “did not want him to get involved” (Gansberg, 129, para. 26). A similar instance of neglect towards Miss Genovese’s cry for help involved a housewife, who ignorantly stated to the police that she thought they were mere lovers involved in a quarrel.
Gansberg applied a clear disappointed tone in this article, as just a timely phone call to the police could have saved Miss Genovese’s life. The article majorly focuses on the timeframe since the killer stabbed Kitty for the first time to when she finally died about thirty-five minutes later. The neighbors had multiple chances to intervene or call the police to save the poor woman, but ignored her plight for help.
The neighbors experienced the bystander effect by failing to intervene. This effect is common among people in groups who are less likely to help a person in need compared to an individual. Additionally, the neighbors could have experienced fear which hindered them from stepping forward and help Kitty. Catharine Genovese’s ordeal was a wake-up call for people always to help others when in trouble in the most effective way, such as calling the police or taking injured people to medical care facilities. By helping others in need, people create social harmony and compassion. In this article, Gansberg aimed to sensitize people to increase their moral apathy and social responsibility to prevent atrocities committed in society.
Gansberg, Martin. “38 Who Saw Murder Didn’t Call the Police; Apathy at Stabbing of Queens Woman Shocks Inspector (Published 1964).” The New York Times – Breaking News, US News, World News and Videos, 1964.