The short stories under analysis, “Killings” by Andre Dubus and “All that you love will be carried away” by Stephen King are based on similar themes and motifs which help the author create a unique story conflict and appeal to readers’ emotions. in the fictions of Dubus and King there are definite realms of experience that highlight man’s limitations, his inability to grasp, much less to manipulate, the mysteries found in nature and deep within the human heart. Dubus ‘s idealists engage actions that violate moral barriers— whether in the form of perverse scientific quests or through personal intrusions into the secrets of another human being. In King’s story, self-corruption occurs as a result of a similar transgression: he consciously chooses to liberate the malevolent energies residing in the burial ground because he wishes control over nature’s greatest secrets—the ability to regulate life and sustain existence.
The main similarity between two stories is the theme of self-search and personal identity. The main character of “All that you love will be carried away”, Alfie Zimmer, sacrifices the people who are dearest to him because of his obsession with an idea: the challenge of altering the immutable laws of nature. He decides to commit a suicide supposing that “couldn’t go on living the way he had been living”.
Alfie is initially drawn to the site, by the conclusion of the novel altruism is no longer the primary motivation.
In order to approach the power of horror Stephen King uses unique personality. His work betrays a fascination with those primary movements and experiences which impel or force the construction of the self as a gendered social being. Similar to King, Andre Dubus creates a happy marriage man, Richard Strout, who has a wife and three children. At various points throughout the book Richard Strout appears to be keeping an unconscious personal record against death. Both main characters are portrayed as loving and caring fathers. Andre Dubus writes; “He had always been a fearful father: when his children were young, at the start of the summer he thought of them drowning in a pond or the sea, and he was relieved when he would come home in the evenings and they were there”. Both characters do not commit a crime but involved in illegal actions. The symbolic is that whole network of family and social relations which the children must “master” in order to be adequately socialized. The father represents for the child the “first term” in the social network, for it is his prohibition of desire for the mother which is the first social force or coercion which the child experiences. Alfie Zimmer is particularly sensitive to the threat of repetition patterning, and to the life-or-death dangers which surround children as they struggle to establish a free, stable self. Much of the power of the text derives from the fact that the images of death in it—images which form the stock-in-trade of most horror fiction—function precisely as images. Andre Dubus sees that their power lies in their ability to evoke our most secret and fundamental terrors, terrors which are not of death itself, but of the extinction of personality, of which death itself is an image.
Both stories are based on different symbols which help the authors to create unique settings and shape the environment. The main symbol of King’s story is a book, which symbolize life of the main character. King’s character get into trouble when he will not open up his mind to extra-normal phenomena that call for moral choices. Indeed, his suspense is largely due to the character’s reluctance to face up to such possibilities. In contrast to King, the main character of Andre Dubus has no choice involved in crime and murder. In both cases, the old horror movie trick of a disbelieving hero’s sudden and long-delayed confrontation with complete evil is employed by King and Andre Dubus to create a greater effect than just suspense. Both authors are using the supernatural to intrude on our everyday awareness of ourselves in order to shock us into awareness of a deeper moral reality than that to which we are accustomed. It is often observed that King appeals to sense of reality. Both authors recapture world in his fiction in order to break down complacencies and resistance to unconscious feelings and fears, as well as to invoke our collective sense of right and wrong. King’s character, when he succeeds in being aware of the evil around him is one of those people on whom nothing is lost.
In sum, in both works the reader finds an ironic set of oppositions: supernaturalism (horror) vs. reality, and good vs. evil. The main similarity between the stories is self-search and the theme of death, similar life stories of the main characters but different life circumstances and conflict resolution. Both authors found darkness too in their search for light; as they conquered a continent they created the very type of imperialism they had sought to escape. The darkness present from the beginning is enough to destroy life of both main characters but prove their hidden moral strength.
Meyer, M. The Bedford Introduction to Literature. Bedford/St. Martin’s;, 2001.