Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Shakespeare and Stephen King in Finder’s Keepers

Shakespeare’s study in the seductive, corrupting influence of ambition is Macbeth, a fine warrior gone rogue when he believes he’s destined to become King and refuses to wait for Fate to deliver the crown. He seizes the moment, slaughters his trusting king and kin, and cuts a savage swath through Scotland to secure his tenuous hold upon power. His victims include peers, his wife, and a boy brutally tossed from minion to minion until he’s skewered on a sword.

Before he draws first blood during peacetime, Macbeth hesitates. He knows that dread deeds succeed at great cost. He knows that the deed itself will not be the end of his dance in the shadowy world of evil. He recognizes that those who perpetrate evil must accept that evil returns to plague (9-10) the perpetrator:

If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well
It were done quickly: if the assassination
Could trammel up the consequence, and catch
With his surcease success; that but this blow
Might be the be-all and the end-all here,
But here, upon this bank and shoal of time,
We'ld jump the life to come. But in these cases
We still have judgment here; that we but teach
Bloody instructions, which, being taught, return
To plague the inventor: this even-handed justice
Commends the ingredients of our poison'd chalice
To our own lips. He's here in double trust;
First, as I am his kinsman and his subject,
Strong both against the deed; then, as his host,
Who should against his murderer shut the door,
Not bear the knife myself. Besides, this Duncan
Hath borne his faculties so meek, hath been
So clear in his great office, that his virtues
Will plead like angels, trumpet-tongued, against
The deep damnation of his taking-off;
And pity, like a naked new-born babe,
Striding the blast, or heaven's cherubim, horsed
Upon the sightless couriers of the air,
Shall blow the horrid deed in every eye,
That tears shall drown the wind. I have no spur
To prick the sides of my intent, but only
Vaulting ambition, which o'erleaps itself
And falls on the other
. (1. 7. 1-28)

Morris Bellamy, the villain of Stephen King’s Finder’s Keepers, remembers the opening lines of Macbeth’s soliloquy provided above. Unfortunately, he doesn’t seem to remember the rest of Macbeth’s thoughts about murder. Bellamy simply tells himself it’s best to commit savage deeds quickly, better not to hesitate or second-guess his plans. Bellamy doesn’t recognize what Macbeth did: bloody instructions… return / to plague the inventor (9-10). 

So King’s allusion suggests Bellamy’s fate well before the final pages of the novel: Bellamy’s ambition to possess Rothstein’s work and his savage deeds to obtain them cannot--will not--end well for him.

An allusion opens windows and doors beyond the first; it
enriches understanding and adds layers of meaning.
Photo courtesy of Megan McClendon

Reading Challenge:

Read Macbeth to enrich your appreciation of Stephen King’s Finder’s Keepers.

Writing Challenge:

King also alludes to Wilfred Owen’s “Dulce et Decorum Est,” a poem entered into the novel by way of a teacher, Mr. Ricker. He explains that some of his students--perhaps most of them--will not fully appreciate Owen’s poem when read and studied, but some of them will be unable to forget it. He says,

Time will pass! ‘Tempus’ will ‘fugit!’ Owen’s poem may fall away from your mind, …. But for some of you it will recur. And recur. And recur. Each time it does, the steady march of your maturity will deepen its resonance. Each time that poem steals back into your mind, it will seem a little less stupid and a little more vital. A little more important. Until it ‘shines,’ …. Until it ‘shines.’  (King, Stephen. Finder’s Keeper’s. New York: Scribner, 2015. 101)

That is the power of allusion, isn’t it? An allusion is the wheat gleaned from the chaff, and its power grows and grows with time. It becomes a gem radiating meaning.

Pluck another gem from Finder’s Keeper’s and explain how it radiates to enrich the reader’s understanding.

Connye Griffin is My Writing and Editing Coach.
She also writes for Our Eyes Upon Missouri.