Summary: Dread tells the story of Stephen Grace and his interactions with a man named Quaid. The two begin their friendship over a discussion on the Philosophy of dread. As their friendship continues, Stephen comes to learn that Quaid is not all he seems to be. Things take a dark turn when he becomes a victim of Quaid's experiment (forcing people to face their greatest fears.) Stephen, who was tempory deaf as a child and is afraid of becoming deaf again, is forced into a sound-proof room where he is unable to hear anything. Stephen snaps, and, through a series of miscalculations by Quaid, ends up murdering Quaid with an ax (which was Quaid's greatest fear).
Notes: There are three things I want to focus on in this review: The opening hook, the middle, and the poetic justice that occurs at the end.
"There is no delight the equal of dread. If it were possible to sit, invisible, between two people on any train, in any waiting room or office, the conversation overheard would time and again circle on that subject." (Page 167)
Opening: The genius of this opening hook rest of three factors. First, the opening sentence is a juxtaposition. Dread and Delight are opposites, yet the argument made is that dread is the greatest delight a person can experience. This juxtaposition disturbs our, the reader's, world. The second thing we need to notice is that the opening sentences (and the paragraph that follows) are presented in the fashion of philosophical argument. This is important to note because that is how Stephen and Quaid's friendship begins over a philosophical discussion. That last thing I need to note is that this opening hook presents the theme of the story. You know that we will be talking about the delight of dread. You might not know how this will be revealed, but you understand that is what this story will be about. Everything I've just discussed was done in the first two sentences of this story (pretty powerful stuff.)
Another thing I feel I need to note is that in the setup of the story, Stephen hears a rumor about how Quaid's mother was murdered with an ax. This small detail comes into play at the very end of the story.
Middle: I wanted to look at something that occurs in the middle of the story. Stephen is one of two victims that Quaid performs his cruel experiments on. The other is a girl named Cheryl, a vegetarian that is locked in a room with nothing to eat but meat. What I wanted to look at is why it is Stephen, not Cheryl, who must be the one to kill Quaid. While they are both victims of Quaid's cruelty, Cheryl is also a victim of her own pride. During the middle of the story, Cheryl boasts about the fact that she doesn't eat meat; it is through her pride that Quaid learns her fear.
Stephen, on the other hand, reveals his fear in a moment of humility. Stephen wants to trust Quaid and allows him to learn his greatest fear in order to connect with another human being. While Cheryl is betrayed by her own pride, Stephen is betrayed by Quaid, and in a dramatic fashion, has earned the right to kill Quaid. What can be learned from this is that when you have a number of 'victims', the one who earns the right to kill the big bad should be the one who entered their hell through the big bad taking advantage of their virtuous nature, not their vice.
Ending: Now for the poetic ending. Quaid ends up being responsible for his own death. After Stephen snaps, Quaid releases him. As Stephen wanders out of the room he was held hostage in, he comes across a box full of pictures showing people that have been killed by axes. We then learn Quaid's greatest fear is being killed by a clown wielding an ax; while the reason is never stated for this fear, one can assume that (based off of the rumor from the beginning of the story) Quaid witnessed the murder of his mother as a child. We also learn that the reason Quaid is doing these expereiments is that he is trying to find a way to overcome his own dread. Quaid then drugs Stephen and leaves him on some street in the city.
waking up sometime later, Stephen is in a state of insanity. He wanders the streets aimlessly and is found by the police. They take him to a Hospital where is he giving mismatching clothes (that make him look like a clown). Stephen then remembers where to find Quaid (having just been at his house) and walks out of the hospital. As he does, he sees a fire ax, and, having remembered the pictures of people killed by axes, grabs it.
The story ends with Quaid having dreams (I've highlighted dreams for an important reason) about a killer clown. He keeps waking up and checking outside of his bedroom; however, the third time he wakes up and looks, Stephen is outside his bedroom, looking like a clown and holding an ax. Stephen then starts cutting into Quaid with the ax, and there Clive Barker ends the story with this following paragraph.
"And Quaid knew, meeting the clown's vacant stare through an air turned bloody, that there was worse in the world than dread. Worse than death itself.
There was pain without hope of healing. There was life that refused to end, long after the mind had begged the body to cease. And worst, there were dreams come true." (Page 203)
Now that is a poetic justice at its best.
I hope those reading have enjoyed my review of Dread. If you have a thought or question, leave a comment!
Previous Post: https://www.writingforums.org/entry/horror-a-study-on-cliver-barker-part-7-in-the-hills-the-cities.63809/
Next Post: https://www.writingforums.org/entry/horror-a-study-on-cliver-barker-part-9-hells-event.63813/
You need to be logged in to comment