The ButterflyBy: Cain, James M. (male)
Publisher: New American Library, Inc. (Signet Books - 720)
Place of Publication: New York, NY
Catalog #: Kelley Box 211: PS3505 .A3113 B8 1949
Contributor: J. Fitzpatrick
GeneralEra: 1940s Author as on Cover: James M. Cain Geographic Locale: West Virginia / Kentucky border, near the Big Sandy River in Mingo County (fictionalized as Carbon County); fictional surrounding towns are: Tulip, Carbon City, Blount, and Gilroy Date of Publication: 1949 | Original Date: 1946 Setting: rural; a farm near an abandoned coal mine in the Appalachian hills Motives: jealousy, adultery, and revenge, compounded by mistaken identity
Seductive Kady Tyler returns to her father Jess's farm, after giving birth to an illegitimate baby named Danny. Jess has not seen Kady since his wife, Belle, left him, taking their two young daughters with her. Upon her return, Jess is seduced by Kady, and she persuades him to produce and sell moonshine whiskey. Moke Blue, Belle's lover, kidnaps baby Danny (who has a distinctive butterfly birthmark), bringing Belle and daughter Jane back into Jess's life along with Wash Blount, Kady's lover. The kidnapping leads to a series of events, including marriage, adultery, incest, and murder in the coalmining hills of Appalchia.
Jess Tyler adult male, 42 years old, farmer
Moke Blue adult male, 39 years old
Belle Morgan Tyler adult female, 39 years old, Jess's wife, Moke's lover
Kady Tyler adolescent female, 19 years old, Jess's daughter
Jane Tyler female, Jess's daughter
Danny baby boy, approx. 6 months old
Wash Blount adult male, 20 years old, Kady's lover, Danny's father
Ed Blue adult male, Moke Blue's cousin
Winchester rifles, .45 caliber pistols, knives
Level of Violence
several violent acts, but they are not described in great detail. Belle tries to stab Moke, and Jess shoots Moke. Jess also drags Moke's body into an old mine and seals it in. Ed Blue shoots Jess.
sex permeates the story, but is implicit, never stated explicitly beyond short phrases such as "hot kisses." Kady seduces Jess, and he gives in to the seduction. He does whatever she wants, as he is jealous of all her flirtations in the local bar. Also, Belle committed adultery with Moke Blue, and Kady and Jess believe they are committing incest. Kady also has an illegitimate child with Wash Blount.
Jess is a teetotaler, but drinks when Kady persuades him to build a still and sell moonshine. Kady drinks and seduces men in bars.
appears in the form of a local judge and a prosecutor when Jess and Kady are arrested
social class plays a role in the novel; Kady could not marry Wash Blount because his father has risen from the ranks of miner to owner, and does not at first permit the marriage. Mining and unions are also alluded to throughout the novel.
Adultery/ Incest/ Murder/ Kentucky/ West Virginia/ Appalachian Region/ Coal Mines and Mining
The Butterfly, 1981, Par Par