Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

First Advisor

Maureen Reedy

Document Type




Date of Original Version



This thesis studies book-length literature from four cases of violent crime—the unsolved murder of Elizabeth Short in 1947, the prosecution of O.J. Simpson by Deputy Assistant District Attorney Marcia Clark, the shooting at Columbine High School by Harris and Klebold, and the trial of American exchange student Amanda Knox for the murder of her roommate in Italy in 2007–in order to analyze the way in which authors characterize the women and events involved in each case. Regardless of their positioning to the crime, the women who are close to these cases are repeatedly criticized by those chronicling their actions for failing to act in ways that preserve orthodox gender roles. To define the way in which gender is constructed and policed within society, the theoretical works of Laura Mulvey, Judith Butler, and Simone de Beauvoir are referenced. Analyzing the literature and theory surrounding each case reveals that true crime literature can suggest a code of conduct for women to follow by linking perceived deviant gender behavior to fatal outcomes and circumstances. Despite the horrible violence that each case contains, disapproval centers around women’s clothing choices, manner of speaking, and bodies.