Tuesday, November 04, 2008

The Big Read IV: Shirley Jackson's "The Intoxicated" and "The Daemon Lover"

The Lottery: And Other Stories The Lottery and Other Stories

by Shirley Jackson

The Intoxicated

I realized I needed to think about the time to get more from the story. This must have been written immediately post-WWII...copyright 1948. The intoxicated man at a dinner party talks to his host's daughter while she does her homework.

"I'm writing a paper on the future of the world," she said, and smiled. "It sounds silly, doesn't it? I think it's silly."
"Your party out front is talking about it. That's one reason I came out here." He could see her thinking that that was not at all the reason he came out here, and he said quickly, "What are you saying about the future of the world?"
"I don't really think it's got much future," she said, "at least the way we've got it now."
This leads into a conversation in which she messes with him, and you wonder, is she just messing with him, leading him deeper into a crevasse where the only future for him is a pile of rubble, or does she think in the future "the subways will crash through"? Does she really think that "Everything that makes the world like it is now will be gone. We'll have new rules and new ways of living." ?

The intoxicated man returns to the party, where he tells the others she is an interesting girl, to which her father says, "Kids nowadays." The conversation has either gone over the man's head, or he's been unsettled, coming away with the idea that she's working on her Latin homework. I wonder how much she's been referring to the A-Bomb, I wonder if this is the nascent beginnings of a beatnik.

The Daemon Lover

At the age of thirty-four, thirty on her license, a woman waits for Jamie, her fiance. She takes great care with the details. Once married, they will stay at her apartment. Everything must be perfect. Yet he doesn't show. She anxiously tries to track him down. She hasn't known him long enough to know exactly where she lives. Does he exist at all? Given the title, I think not. I wonder, am I missing something? Perhaps the story means to make a statement about the search for a man, the need to find identity through a man...so much so she creates one. He has a name, James Harris, but she does not. (Unless I missed it.)

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