Wednesday, August 8, 2012


The Southern Hauntings Saga goes on.
After 'The Vagrant', that introduced us to the weird character of Crate Northgate, comes 'The Girl', even more scarier and macabre than the first installment. More is revealed of Crate's past and of his personal ghosts as he confronts a mystery in the Appalachian mountains.
Yet, is there some kind of symbolism in this tale? Does the missing girl stand for Crate's own ghosts?
And why am I asking this? Am I firing on all rockets?
We look for symbolism everywhere. We can't avoid it. As a species, we look for patterns in every thing, because our mind can't cope with pure chaos, so we strive to find logic and hidden meanings even where there are none.
Yes, sometimes, stories are just stories, with no more depth than a puddle of rain on the highway. Some stories are made to entertain.
Bryan Hall is here to explain it better.

There's a scene in the Steven Spielberg version of “War of the Worlds” where Tom Cruise's character's daughter has a splinter.  Tom wants to get it out, but the girl (played by Dakota Fanning) refuses and gives a short speech on how her body will realize it's foreign and will reject it, forcing it out over time.  I read a review – I can't remember where but it could have been Rolling Stone or EW – that said this scene and the entire movie was symbolic of the Iraq war and Spielberg's thoughts on it.  Personally, I thought it was a bit of foreshadowing towards the eventual end of the alien invasion and nothing more.  Others just thought it was Dakota Fanning's character being a kid who didn't want her dad poking a sharp object into her finger to dig out a sliver of wood.

The point to this is simply that symbolism is important, but that you should always take it with a grain of salt.  Most writers incorporate it into their stories, and in many cases it's actually done unintentionally.  Subconscious saltings of symbolism often weave their way into books without the author even knowing they're there until they go back through and look, I think.  I know they do for me.  Of course, I actually do drop in some metaphors and symbolism here and there while I'm fully aware that I'm doing it.  But I don't expect readers to pick up on them all or to even care that they're there.  And that's okay. 

I know most readers of horror are reading to be entertained.  Or frightened.  Or disturbed.  They're not reading to find a profound literary tale that is filled with allegories and broad brush strokes comparing a monster from the deep to man's constant march forward into the future.  In “The Shining”, you can view the Overlook Hotel as symbolic of Jack Torrance's alcoholism and the way that the entire Torrance family is living their lives inside that disease.  Or you can view it as a scary-ass haunted hotel.  Either way, it's still a damn good book.  

I'm writing this post because I got an email from an advance reader of “The Girl”, out now from Angelic Night Press as part of my Southern Hauntings Saga.  The reader found some symbolism in the story and wanted to know if it was intentional or not, and if they were correct in their assumption.  The simple fact is that if you see something in a story as symbolic...then it is, whether the author meant it that way or not.  Stories mean different things for different people, as much of a cliché as that may be.  If you read “The Girl” - or any book, for that matter - and are entertained and enjoy yourself, then the writer did their job.  If you find deeper meanings in some aspects of the story, even better.  Far be it from me or anyone else to tell you what a story means to you.

Bryan Hall - Author of 'The Southern Hauntings Saga' and 'Containment Room 7'

      Check it out!                      Book One                                 AKP

1 comment:

  1. Excellent post! I love how symbolism comes in so many forms (author intention and reader response being two of my favorite bits of literary theory) and how, no matter how it is used or interpreted, it can enrich both the writer and reader in fun and surprising ways. Thanks so much for sharing this!