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10 November 2008

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"The Witch" and "The Renegade"
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gailg

I can't say I really got The Witch. Like I said earlier, a lot of these stories seem like "slice of life," situational pieces rather than traditional short stories in which something happens to characters that changes them. Yeah, I loved the kid and loved the point where the stranger told the boy what he did to his own little sister. But I'm not sure what happened here. And why was it called The Witch?

Then The Renegade--yeah, this struck me as very much us vs them/city folk vs. rural folk. And, yeah, I come from people who would have said, "Shoot the damn dog" and wondered what her problem was. But I don't think this story is about the dog at all, it's about someone unwillingly losing herself in what she sees as a totally different culture. You'll recall that at the end of the story, her kids are going over to the other side.

I'm not sure at what point Jackson wrote this story or what inspired it. I have been to the town she was living in as a faculty wife. (Though not for many years.) I think of it as being a relatively sophisticated, if small, place. In fact, I was with some old family friends from Vermont last week and asked their impression of the place, even back forty years ago. They said, "Money." (There is an expensive, private college there.) So I'm reading this thing and thinking, Just how rural were the people she had to deal with?

However, I skimmed this Salon article (I'd read it back when it was published), and it claims that she did suffer from anti-Semitism and anti-intellectualism when she was living in Vermont, and she may have had conflicts in town for other reasons.

Leila

I don't know if there was much to get in "The Witch". I assumed that it referred to the old man, but heck, who knows? Maybe it referred to the little boy.

If anyone's reading these comments and wants to read the story, it's available here.

One of the many things I'm enjoying about the stories is that the writing feels pretty spare, but somehow I'm still getting a really clear picture in my head of the characters and the events. Like little short films.

No, I don't think it was about the dog. She was another character who was alone. The only person it seemed she even had a vague connection with was the lady next door. And that was only because the lady was semi-sympathetic. I do think that the people who were giving her the advice were kind of revelling in it because they were doing the "Let's screw with the lady who's from away" thing. I admit that I always got a kick out of driving friends from away by the country store during deer season when the deer were being weighed out front...

I hadn't thought about her kids going over to the other side, being assimilated into the country culture. That works.

I did think it was interesting, though, that both stories featured mothers who were kind of scared by the vision of their kids enjoying the idea of violence.

It made me wonder if the stories in this section would have a theme, the way that a bunch of the stories in the previous section had the Home=Identity (I think it was Heidi who came up with that?) theme...

I think I'm going to try and track a copy of this down. I've always been interested in Shirley Jackson -- reading this, though, has spurred me to actually do something about it!

gailg

I've never read that and definitely should. If only I had time, I would read her books about her family, Life Among the Savages and Raising Demons. I may have read them when I was a teenager, but the concept is similar to Please Don't Eat the Daisies, and I just can't be sure of what I've read and what I haven't.

Heidi

Thanks, Gail for that Salon article. I look forward to reading it.

Leila, I was playing around with the idea of the Harris character always being a daemon, and as such acts as the catalyst for diabolical change. So I wondered if the cigar-smoking gentleman was the 'Harris' character and thus the witch. Perhaps this is related to the theme you're looking for...a particular moment switches the story to a darker track.

I look forward to your review once you read "Private Demons"

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