Horror: A study on Cliver Barker part 9, Hell's Event
Summary: Hell's Event is story 8 in the Books of Blood. This is a fun story to read; it is about a race that is held every 100 years in London. The world's top athletes come to participate in what they believe is a charity event, but in secret, the event is to decide rather or not Hell shall get to rule London for 100 years, or if the country will remain a democracy. The story's hero is Joel Jones who is running the race to defeat one of his rivals. Half-way through the race, he comes to realize the true importance of the race and does his best to win. Realizing that he can't win, he does the unthinkable; he trips Hell's runner and wrestles it to the ground so some other runner can win first place and prevent Hell from taking over. In the end Jones is killed, but Hell is stopped from taking over London.
Note: Today I want to focus on Allusions. For anyone reading this who does not know what an Allusion is, an Allusion is where a writer subtly references another writer's work. 'Hell's events' makes a number of Allusions to the Divine Comedy, which is in itself an allusion to allusions -let me explain. The Divine Comedy is famous for the ungodly amount of allusions placed into it; seriously, every page is full of philosophical, biblical, historical, and Greek references. I believe Clive Barker made a stylistic choice to stuff as many Allusions about The Divine Comedy in Hell's Event in order to match part of the writing style The Divine Comedy is written in. I am not going to list every Allusion I found, but I am going to go through a hand full of ones that I thought were really cool concepts, but before that, a very special note to anyone reading this.
-If you are writing horror, and you've not read The Divine Comedy, put your work on hold, go to the library, and read that book; not just inferno, but the whole damn thing. There is no Famous Horror writer alive that has not read that book.-
The first Allusion to the Divine Comedy is from the opening line in the book.
"Hell came up to the streets and squares of Long that September, icy from the depths of the Ninth Circle..." (Page 204)
Icy from the depths of the ninth circle is the first allusion. In the Divine Comedy, the ninth circle of hell is a frozen lake made up of Satan's tears and the lowest pit a soul can be sent to; this is the place where traitors go.
There is a second reference to the ninth circle when we meet the main villain Burgess, A politician that has fixed the race so that Hell will win. We meet him in a frozen room, this both A staging scene and an allusion. Hell has so many layers that Burgess could have been standing in a room of fire, or shit, or hail, but instead, he is found taking to a devil in a frozen room. The reason for this is that Burgress has betrayed mankind, so the punishment he will know in Hell is being frozen into the lake. When he meet Burgess it must be in a frozen room; the hellish environment must match his sin (treachery.)
The third allusion I want to focus on is on Hell's runner himself. Hell has two runners during the race, one to win the race, and one to kill the other runners. This will take a bit to explain, but this is a really cool allusion (in fact it is so well-thought out that it is brilliant). For the demon to kill the other runners, they have to look at him. This is a reference to Lot's wife; when see look back at Sodom and Gomorrah she was killed and turned into a pillar of salt. In the Divine Comedy, Sinners of Violence against God must forever run in the fire and Ash landscapes of Sodom and Gomorrah. In other words, the fact that Hell's runner has the powers to kill those who look at them is an Allusion to the Seventh Level of Hell. (Pretty cool stuff, yeah?)
The 4th Allusion I want to make note of is at the end of the story.
"The corridor divided. Burgess took the left-hand fork." (Page 227)
After losing the race, Burgess worries that Hell will be angry for being defeated again. Burgess tries to escape his fate but comes to a fork and goes left. This is an Allusion to the Pythagorean choice that Dante has to make in the Divine Comedy. The Pythagorean choice is that in a fork, the left leads to sin and damnation and the right leads to Forgiveness and Bliss.
The last thing I wanted to make note of is a conversation between two reporters are having on the race. The words that Clive has them speak fits the tone of the book so well; I couldn't stop laughing.
"-Well, we're now in the closing stages of what really has been one hell of a race, eh, Jim?
"Oh yes, it's really been a revelation, hasn't it?" (Page 220)
In conclusion, I believe this short story really shows the power of being well-read in literature. It is a power that Clive Barker uses to astounding effects in this story. Allusions are a fun thing to use in writing, but you must remember that they have to serve the story, and not be used as just cool decorations. On a personal level, when I read a story, I always take a few notes from that story to be used as Allusions should ever the need arise. It is a good practice to get into.
Special announcement: The next story, Jacqueline Ess, is my favorite story from Books of Blood. I will be doing a very in-depth look at that one due to my love for it.
If you have any thoughts or questions, please leave a comment!
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