Horror: A study on Cliver Barker part 5, Pig Blood Blues.
Pig Blood Blues is a showcase piece when it comes to violence, philosophical concepts, Symbolism, and subtext. This is one of those short stories that takes a different meaning after you've read through it a second, or third time. I'd like to warn you now; if you don't want the deeper meaning of this story ruined for you then click off of this.
Summary: An Ex-cop takes a teaching job at boys home. There he meets a young boy named Lacey who claims that the ghost of a missing boy named Hennessey is possessing a giant pig. The cop comes to believe Lacey after he witnesses both the other boys and the faculty trying to feed Lacey to the giant pig. The story ends with the cop being tied up as Lacey, now possessed by the spirit of a pig, eats him alive. (My summary does not do this story justic. This is one of those Short stories you really need to read to grasp everything that happens.)
First, I want to start off with the level of violence shown in this; it is just the right amount. Only during the climax (the third act) of the story does thing get really violent. The story starts off slow, with a mystery, before it gets into the violence and gore. In the past I've rushed to the violence and gore in my writing; instead, I think we should take our time before getting to blood and guts.
Second, I wanted to touch on two philosophical concepts. First, a lot of horror writers study Nietzsche -I'm not sure why. But he is referenced in this story by name. Going back to the first short story, Book of Blood, I made mention of the Dionysian aspect of art and human nature. This concept was constructed by Nietzsche. While I am not well studied in his works, I'd be willing to wager that there is a lot of Nietzche's concepts within Barker's works.
The second concept I want to touch on is the six level of incarnations. (Demon, Ghost, Animal, Demi-god, Man, and Angel). The fact that Hennessey returns back in the form of a giant pig, is actually pretty sound. As you can see, Ghost and Animal are close together; this works well with the fact that Hennessey's ghost is inside an animal (pig).
Third, there is some minor symbolism that is going on. The fact that a cop (also called a pig) must face off against an actually Giant Pig has a sense of Symmetrical symbolism behind it, at least in my opinion.
And forth, the game-changing subtext behind this story. Redmen (the cop) is everything we'd want in a hero: Bold, not afraid to speak his mind, willing to sacrifice his life to save Lacey. Why would Clive Barker have Mr. Redmen Canbalized by the very boy he is trying to save? This doesn't sound like a fate fitting for a hero, does it? Remembering my previous post about the type of characters that end up dead, let us take a real look at Mr. Redmen.
Mr. Redmen is an ex-cop; the reasons for him leaving the department are never stated; he hints at there being a disagreement about the way he handled things (maybe being too violent with a suspect? the reader is not sure.)
The second thing we have to remember is that Mr. Redmen has decided to work at the boys home.
Now for the one line (that if a reader was just scanning the story they might miss this one) that changes the game for this story. "...It had a certain truth behind it. Was there something in him that wanted Thomas Lacey naked beside him?" (Page 89)
The true motivations for Mr. Redmen are revealed. Mr. Redmen is attractive to young men/boys. That is the disagreement that forced him to leave the department. That is the reason he decided to work at the boys home. That is the reason why he is cannibalized at the end of the story because he was after forbidden pleasures.
To further this point, A parallelism must be drawn between Mr. Redmen, and Leverthal (A Dr. and another character from this story.) Leverthal admits in having sex with Hennessy. She claims that since he was 18, there was nothing wrong in her actions; she dies by being burned to death during a struggle with Mr. Redmen.
Mr. Redmen's death is deserving not because of his physical actions, but the motivations behind those actions. An important lesson can be learned from this; when your hero has a dark and disturbing motivation behind his actions, give him a lot of positive qualities so that reader will like him. (This concept
is heavily studied in Blake Synder's Save the cat.)
I hope you've enjoyed this review of Pig Blood Blues.
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