Study Guide

Chicago The Hunyak (Ekaterina Chtchelkanova)

The Hunyak (Ekaterina Chtchelkanova)

No Noose is Good Noose

Poor Katalin Helinski. We don't even know her name until she's put to death. The other prisoners only call this Hungarian woman "the Hunyak" and she only speaks three words of English: 

 "Unh-unh. Not guilty!" 

 Hmm. Make that two words of English.

The Hunyak does all of Velma's laundry "for a buck a week" but Roxie has no problem taking the duds to Velma and pocketing the cash.

That's far from the biggest injustice, though. The Hunyak is actually innocent, if the symbolism of the "Cell Block Tango" is to be believed—she is the only woman to display a white ribbon instead of a red one. Her whole portion of the song is in Hungarian, but, if translated to English, allegedly her lover killed her husband, not her. She may have committed adultery, but she isn't a murderer. [Source]

Gallows Humor

So why is she found guilty and hanged? Not speaking English is a big strike against her in America, plus she probably couldn't afford Billy Flynn's rich price tag. When she is hanged, Roxie imagines it as a "famous Hungarian disappearing act." In her fantasy, she disappears, but in reality, the noose snaps her neck.

It's a sad moment—maybe the only truly sad moment in the whole movie—and it also serves to snap Roxie back to reality. Only when the Hunyak hangs does Roxie realize her actions could have fatal consequences. "I'm scared," Roxie says to Billy, in one of her only moments of genuine fear. And she follows his advice from here on out, because she'll do anything to avoid the gallows.

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