Written by Becca Gasperoni and Kristi Murray
Stephen King’s short story “A Death” appeared in the March 9 edition of The New Yorker. The story is concise, fast-paced, and unsettling. From his perch atop the throne of American horror, King’s ability to expose the dark repressions of the human psyche through horrific encounters translates well to popular fiction by means of captivating plotlines and dynamic characters.
He has penned over 50 novels and 200 short stories, gathering a large and loyal fan following. When you read his work, it can be surprising and rather shocking to think that so many readers connect with his writing.
His novel “Carrie,” for example, tells the tragic and twisted tale of sexual repression, religious fervor, and adolescent trauma. The novel is repulsive and horrific, and yet has been adapted into two film versions and reprinted in several different editions.
“A Death” reveals deep-rooted human repressions, as the story follows the trial of Jim Trusdale, who is convicted of murdering a 10-year-old girl.
The most striking aspect of this story is the fact that the reader and the characters must confront the innermost terrifying parts of themselves. Trusdale himself is the epitome of the animalistic and horrific parts of humanity that we all hope to suppress within ourselves. The idea that he could murder such a young girl is difficult to accept because this truth would reveal the dark and violent aspects present in humankind. As we follow the debate surrounding his guilt, we find that we sympathize with Trusdale and we hope that he is innocent of this violent crime. The story contains repulsive sexual elements that simultaneously shock and captivate us.
Trusdale’s denial of his involvement with the crime presents him as rather simplistic and childish, revealing the complexities and twisted nature of his character. Trusdale acts as a mirror, reflecting the aspects of humanity that people refuse to acknowledge and choose to deny within themselves.
For Sheriff Barclay, accepting Trusdale’s guilt would be an acceptance of the darkness and violence that is an inherent part of his own humanity. Barclay denies the possibility that Trusdale could have committed such a crime in order to protect himself from realizing his own impulses and capabilities. The story is chilling and disturbing, largely due to the repressions it exposes.
This story is not exactly a beach read to entertain you in the upcoming summer months, but it’s a fast and exciting story that will captivate you from the start. While lacking some of the fantastical elements common to King’s works, the story is perhaps even more horrific because it is so realistic and exposing. Don’t read this one at night!