Saturday, December 10, 2011

Dark Passages: Bag of Bones

Bag of Bones is rightfully revered as one of Stephen King's finest novels.  The narrative succeeds on many levels (ghost story, love story, domestic drama, Northeastern Gothic), but perhaps King's most impressive accomplishment here is the crafting of utterly terrifying dream sequences.  Consider the following (annotated) passage, which plunges readers into protagonist Mike Noonan's recurring nightmare:
Now Sara Laughs is [use of present tense heightens the sense of immediacy] only a dark hulk down below [phrasing that foreshadows that late Sara Tidwell's earthly location?] and I realize I don't want to go down there, anyway.  I am a man who has trained his mind to misbehave [a perfectly paradoxical account of the writer's creative process], and I can imagine too many things waiting for me inside.  A rabid raccoon crouched in a corner of the kitchen.  Bats in the bathroom [alliteration abounds]--if disturbed they'll crowd the air around my cringing face, squeaking and fluttering against my face with their dusty wings [multisensory details make the nightmare figures seem even more real].  Even one of William Denbrough's famous Creatures From Beyond the Universe [intimations of Lovecraft, plus an echo of Creature from the Black Lagoon], now hiding under the porch and watching me approach with glittering, pus-rimmed eyes [my, what disgusting features IT has].
"Well, I can't stay up here," I say, but my legs won't move [classic paralysis of the dreamer], and it seems I will be staying up here, where the driveway meets the lane, that I will be staying up here [repetition reinforces the idea of being stuck in place], like it or not.
Now the rustling in the woods behind me sounds not like small animals (most of them would by then be nested or burrowed for the night, anyway) [rationalization provides little comfort in this case] but approaching footsteps [the suspense of imminence].  I try to turn and see, but I can't even do that...  (54-55)

Work Cited

King, Stephen.  Bag of Bones.  New York: Pocket Books, 1998.

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