Posted in English 1103, Reading, Teaching

ENG 1103: The Horror, The Horror!

Today in class we read Stephen King’s short story “Strawberry Spring,” which was published in Ubris magazine in 1968 and included in King’s first short story collection, Night Shift (1978).

For the collaborative exercise that you completed after we read the story, I asked you to determine whether you could identify any details that indicate why the narrator may have murdered any of his victims. Although there is no indication that the narrator knew Gale Cermann or Adelle Parkins, he did know Ann Bray, which he reveals after he tells the readers that she was editor of the school newspaper: “In the hot, fierce bubblings of my freshman youth I hade submitted a column idea to the paper and asked for a date–turned down on both counts” (paragraph forty-one).

I also asked you to identify words and phrases that illustrate how the story is not only a horror story but also a commentary on war, the Vietnam War in particular, and the Vietnam era. Some of the words and phrases you may have identified include these:

  • (Ice) sculpture of Lyndon Johnson . . . “cried melted tears” (paragraph four)
  • Civil War cannons (paragraphs five and seventy-four)
  • The dove “lost its frozen feathers” (paragraph five)
  • The fog (paragraphs seven, twenty, twenty-nine, thirty-one, forty-three, forty-four, fifty-two, sixty-four, sixty-six, seventy, seventy-five, and seventy-six)
  • “[W]ho had been drafted” (paragraph thirty-two)
  • SDS (paragraph forty-eight)
  • Quagmire (paragraph fifty)
  • “[A] series of draft protests and a sit-in” (paragraph seventy)

In addition to those questions on your assignment sheet, I asked you to try to identify the two literary allusions in King’s story. The first is an allusion to J.R.R. Tolkein’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy: “You half expected to see Gollum or Frodo or Sam go hurrying past” (paragraph five). The second is an allusion to a poem by Carl Sandburg, titled–perhaps unsurprisingly–“The Fog.”